The plan for a green, clean, fair new world
Could the Green New Deal actually work? The plan would transform the USA into a zero-emissions economy in 10 years, whilst building a fairer society. Is it too good to be true?
“As towns and cities go underwater, as wildfires ravage our communities, we’re going to pay,” warned Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 29-year-old Democrat congresswoman for New York. “And we have to decide whether we’re going to pay to react or pay to be proactive.”
She was championing the Green New Deal, an ambitious plan to transform the economy, make society more equal — and heal the planet.
Average global temperatures have risen by 1C since the Industrial Revolution. On our current trajectory, the world will hit 3C global warming by 2100, with catastrophic consequences.
“Trillions of dollars. Millions of lives. Irreversible changes that cannot be undone in centuries,” says climate journalist David Robert.
To avoid this fate, the proponents of the Green New Deal say the US must completely decarbonise its economy within 10 years.
In February, a 14-page resolution for the plan was published. It sets out two big ideas:
1. What the USA must do to solve the climate crisis. The plan would commit the USA to “eliminating pollution and green-house gas emissions as much as technologically feasible”. Buildings would be retrofitted to make them energy-efficient, food would be locally grown, petrol cars would be eliminated.
It would require huge investment in green energy, creating new jobs and entirely new industries. Meanwhile, massive industries like oil, natural gas and coal will be wiped from existence.
2. How to protect people during the transition. Activists behind the plan are realistic: the Green New Deal will hurt. From coal miners to oil workers, millions of people would lose their jobs, their livelihoods and possibly their homes.
To protect them, the resolutions contains a set of promises, including guaranteed jobs, universal healthcare, education and training for all. This will ensure that the transformation does not lead to greater inequality, as wealthy companies swoop in to build the new, green world.
Brave new world
Can the Green New Deal work? Its Republican opponents say that the vast amount of money the plan requires simply does not exist, and that there is no practical plan to put the changes in place. Not only is it unrealistic, they argue, but the radical proposals to wipe out massive segments of the economy overnight would lead to chaos on a national scale, and plunge the most vulnerable into destitution.
But more and more economists agree: the economy is not working. Our capitalist system is destroying the planet and creating huge inequality, with millions excluded from opportunity and prosperity. The climate crisis and the financial disasters of the last decade present an opportunity to build a moral economy to benefit everyone and secure humanity’s future. It’s not a question of whether we should do it — we must do it.
- Would you give up air travel to help the climate crisis?
- Is the Green New Deal a good idea?
- List five practical policies that you would put in place to achieve the aims of the Green New Deal.
- Research the consequences of global warming at 1.5C, 2C and 3C. Make a poster showing your findings
Some People Say...
“Congress is too old. They don’t have a stake in the game.”Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (often referred to by her initials, AOC)
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- The name of the Green New Deal is a reference to Franklin D Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s. The New Deal was a huge project during the Great Depression that gave relief to the impoverished, and got people back into work. Without the huge investment, experts agree that the depression would have been more severe and gone on longer.
- What do we not know?
- What exact policies would be put into place with the Green New Deal. For now, the plan is more of a big idea rather than a concrete set of policies, but activists hope to get an actionable plan ready to go if the Democrats win in next year’s presidential election. Other countries are beginning to discuss similar reforms, so variations on the Green New Deal are likely to be proposed around the world.
- Industrial Revolution
- Roughly, 1760 to 1840 when Britain started burning fossil fuels to generate power, and began manufacturing goods on a mass scale in factories.
- End the economy’s reliance on carbon. The plan would see the USA have zero net emissions, which means that its remaining carbon emissions are balanced out by efforts to remove carbon from the atmosphere, for example, by planting new trees.
- Add or change a component that something did not have when it was originally manufactured.
- Like Joseph Stiglitz. See Become An Expert to read his argument for creating a fairer, greener economy.
- Financial disasters
- The financial crisis of 2007 to 2008. Just yesterday, the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney warned that Britain is currently facing the biggest risk of a recession since 2007, and this time the bank may be less able to limit its consequences.