The Green New Deal resolution was released in the House of Representatives by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) on February 7, 2019, with a companion measure introduced in the Senate by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA).
The Green New Deal (GND) is a powerful idea that is reshaping the conversation in Washington about how to tackle the issue of climate change. How is it doing this? By tying it to a set of concepts and policies that are about alleviating economic insecurity, the most potent political force of our time.
By likening itself to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal that came before it, the GND reminds people of a point in time when the United States needed a reset—a new social compact between government and society that recalibrated expectations, assured people of the government’s ability to lead, and gave confidence to a citizenry that government heard and took seriously its needs. It represents an opportunity to shake up what has become a stale policy environment that has proven itself unable to tackle some of the most pressing challenges facing society today.
As many analysts have pointed out, the GND is ambitious on three dimensions. Its scope is enormous, covering a complete overhaul of the nation’s energy system and a new approach to healthcare and employment insurance. The approach, while not fully fleshed out, is aggressive, with government mandates and market intervention taking a bigger role.
The pace is unprecedented, with a 10-year mobilization effort to try and achieve a goal of net zero emissions status by 2030. This pace is a valid cause for concern because it would be extremely hard to achieve, but it is also, in some ways, more appropriate given all that we know about what is required to deal with climate change. All of these considerations have led many who likely support the goals of the GND to caution against throwing out a more incremental approach in favor of “utopian” visions and moonshots.
The aforementioned concerns have genuine merit, but to squander the energy and vision of a GND out of an abundance of caution is a mistake. It could be a big idea that needs to grow to reach its full potential and avoid several pitfalls that could limit its effectiveness.