What Exactly is the Green New Deal?

What Exactly is the Green New Deal?


With Democrats having retaken the U.S. House of Representatives, there has been a new focus in the federal government on addressing climate change. But when politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talk about their Green New Deal initiative, what exactly do they mean? According to the New York Times, the Green New Deal resolution “calls on the federal government to wean the United States from fossil fuels and curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions across the economy. It also aims to guarantee new high-paying jobs in clean energy industries.” While the legislation itself doesn’t require any real action to be taken, it is the biggest political push in a decade in support of combating climate change.

Let’s unpack some of the key quotes from the legislation, borrowed from this CNN article with added insights from the New York Times, and see how it could affect the country.

"meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources"

As of now, renewable energy accounts for only about 20% of US energy production, and nuclear energy is another 20%. That means that coal and gas still produce the majority (~60%) of our energy. The wheels are already in motion to increase our proportion of renewable energy used, but as of now we aren’t even projected to reach 30% renewable energy until 2050.

"upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximal energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability, including through electrification"

This is obviously a huge proposition, and it’s not explained in the legislation exactly how this would be achieved. Large grants for this kind of work have occurred before, but it’s unclear how much upgrading all of the buildings in the US would cost.

"working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible"

It’s no secret that the agricultural industry takes a big toll on the environment. Livestock greenhouse gas emissions contribute significantly to global warming (they comprise about 14.5% of total global emissions)  and the Green New Deal seeks to reduce such impact.

"guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States"

Not all of the clauses in the Green New Deal relate directly to climate change. It also aims to tackle societal issues like economic inequality, another important agenda item for progressives. This involves the question of raising the minimum wage, but so far there’s no consensus on just how much it should be increased.

"providing resources, training, and high-quality education, including higher education, to all people of the United States, with a focus on frontline and vulnerable communities, so those communities may be full and equal participants in the Green New Deal mobilization"

Talk of free college initiatives has also made its way into this legislation. It’s true that demand for workers with college and vocational school education is growing as the US becomes a more information-based economy, but legislators so far have not passed any legislation to make those options more accessible. While there are no specifics on how this would be achieved by the Green New Deal, it does signify the authors’ recognition of higher education as a serious policy area.

These are just a few of the clauses found in the Green New Deal, but they show just how much its supporters are trying to accomplish. You can read the full text of the Green New Deal here and track its progress throughout this legislative session.

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