Print

'Green New Deal' lands in the Capitol

Originally Published in Politico

By Zack Colman and Anthony Adragna

 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) released a blueprint for a Green New Deal on Thursday, urging a "10-year national mobilization" for a speedy shift away from fossil fuels and calling for national health care coverage and job guarantees in a sweeping bid to remake the U.S. economy.

The burgeoning left-wing faction within the Democratic Party quickly persuaded several 2020 White House contenders to sign onto the Green New Deal’s tenets in a bid to push climate change and the broad economic platform up the ladder of party priorities.

Declared candidates Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) are all co-sponsoring the resolution, as are likely contenders Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), according to their offices. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is also on board, saying in a tweet that she is "proud to join" the "fight for our planet and our kids’ futures."

The 14-page, non-binding resolution from Ocasio-Cortez and Markey is an attempt to add substance to the proposals that have fired up a wave of new activists who are planning to barnstorm lawmakers' offices in the Capitol in the coming days — and to set an agenda for the Democrats in the 2020 election.

“[A] new national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization on a scale not seen since World War II and the New Deal era is a historic opportunity ... to create millions of good, high-wage jobs in the United States; to provide unprecedented levels of prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States; and to counteract systemic injustices," the resolution states.

However, the resolution is not likely to go before the House for a vote, according to a Democratic aide, although parts of the plan could ultimately be turned into legislation to address climate change.

Ocasio-Cortez presented the resolution, which was introduced with 60 co-sponsors in the House, as a "first step" to put climate change at the top of Democrats' agenda. "Incremental" legislation would not be enough to address the problem, she said.

“We can save ourselves and we can save the rest of the world with us," she said at a press conference outside the Capitol.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi welcomed the resolution's introduction Thursday, a day after she told POLITICO it would be one of multiple ideas Democrats consider.

“It will be one of several or maybe many suggestions that we receive,” Pelosi said in the interview. “The green dream or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it, right?”

Reps. Raúl Grijalva and Peter DeFazio, who lead the Natural Resources and Transportation committees, are backing the resolution and plan to raise its issues in legislation that moves through their panels.

But Rep. Frank Pallone, who heads the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, was noncommittal. “There’s a lot of good ideas and we’ll have to take a look at it. We’ll consider it.” Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), chair of the newly established House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, also did not give the Green New Deal her explicit endorsement, though she would consider it as she develops "a detailed policy framework."

As POLITICO previously reported, the plan seeks to transition the U.S. to a 100 percent clean energy system without specifically calling for an end to fossil fuels, stating that it aims for "net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers." It also calls for creating "millions of good, high-wage jobs" and pledges "to promote justice and equity" across all communities within 10 years.

Those targets reflect the message from the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report last fall that warned governments must cut global greenhouse gas emissions 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030 to achieve "net-zero" emissions by mid-century to avoid 1.5-degree Celsius global temperature rise.

Republicans were quick to denounce the resolution.

"It’s a socialist manifesto that lays out a laundry list of government giveaways, including guaranteed food, housing, college, and economic security even for those who refuse to work," Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement. "As Democrats take a hard left turn, this radical proposal would take our growing economy off the cliff and our nation into bankruptcy. It’s the first step down a dark path to socialism."

The Sunrise Movement, the youth-led climate group at the heart of the Green New Deal push, is planning hundreds of Senate and House office visits Feb. 11 and 12 to prod lawmakers into signing onto the resolution by Feb. 26.

Ocasio-Cortez's office said in a press release that the freshman lawmaker would soon begin to "fully flesh out the projects involved in the Green New Deal" and work with colleagues to identify legislation that could fit into a "comprehensive plan."

The resolution advocates for eliminating fossil fuels pollution and greenhouse gas emissions "as much as technologically feasible" in agriculture and transportation, two of the major sources of climate change gases.

Under the plan, the electricity system would run entirely on "clean, renewable, and zero-emission sources," the resolution states. It envisions newinvestments in public transportation, improving building energy efficiency, clean manufacturing and green infrastructure. Investments would prioritize communities that "may otherwise struggle with the transition away from greenhouse gas intensive industries" while also ensuring room for "high-paying union jobs" that include prevailing wages and protect collective bargaining rights. It also pushes to "stop the transfer of jobs and pollution overseas."

Achieving many of the goals would depend on a "massive investment program" from the federal government, according to Ocasio-Cortez's office, though it did not call for a carbon tax. Several environmental groups as well as center-right organizations and economists have advocated for such a tax, and Ocasio-Cortez's office said the "door is not closed for market-based incentives."

"We will finance the investments for the Green New Deal the same way we paid for the original New Deal, World War II, the bank bailouts, tax cuts for the rich, and decades of war — with public money appropriated by Congress," the release said. "Further, government can take an equity stake in Green New Deal projects so the public gets a return on its investment."

Critics have hammered the massive spending called for by the plan in recent weeks. Potential presidential candidate and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has backed the idea of a Green New Deal, said recently that some of the plan's promises are "pie in the sky," while Republicans have slammed the concept as unworkable.

At a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on Wednesday, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) criticized what he saw as the youthful folly of new members proposing unrealistic plans in the new Congress with the support of more senior lawmakers.

"I guess I can understand if someone who has not a lot of life experience and they’re proposing something that’s extremely unrealistic — well, impossible. Impossible. But what I don’t understand is adults, grown-ups who are older and more mature are also advocating something that is impossible, and I see that in some of the presidential contenders,” he said.

But some of those Democratic contenders cheered as the resolution neared its release.

"Excited that @SenMarkey, my former colleague, & @AOC are starting a conversation in Congress on #GreenNewDeal and thrilled this movement (and groups like @sunrisemvmt) has forced climate action onto the agenda," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), who has pledged to make climate change central to his White House bid, tweeted Wednesday.

A staffer for Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), who is expected to join the race and has advocated for action on climate change, said he is reviewing the resolution in detail.

The resolution includes key changes from the first proposal that Ocasio-Cortez presented in November when she and dozens of activists stormed Pelosi’s Capitol Hill office. Those changes appear designed to make the Green New Deal more palatable to moderates and labor unions that are key Democratic backers.

Chiefly, the resolution calls for relying on “clean, renewable, zero-emission sources" — language that allows possible room for nuclear power and is a departure from Ocasio-Cortez’s initial call for 100 percent renewable sources such as wind and solar. The change reflects concerns from labor groups, including those that have members who work in the nuclear energy industry. Ocasio-Cortez's office also didn't rule out carbon capture and storage technology as a means of enabling the continued use of fossil fuels, though they would prefer steps like reforestation and said that carbon capture technology "to date has not proven effective."

The wording reflects that many communities revolve around fossil fuel economies and will need more time to adjust to a transition, a concern that Democratic lawmakers in the Congressional Progressive Caucus had previously raised. Provisions in the resolution such as the need to obtain consent from indigenous peoples on all decisions that affect their land — similar to First Nations in Canada — are also designed to be bulwarks against extraction.

Those assurances, however, are unlikely to please everyone.

“Our climate crisis requires that we stand up to the fossil fuel industry and ramp down our fossil fuel production, not allow it to continue its planned expansion,” David Turnbull, a spokesperson with Oil Change International, said in a statement.