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Like so many other progressive goals for this Congressional term, the biggest roadblock may not be Republicans, but centrist Democrats like Senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema.
On April 20, Democratic Senator Edward Markey and House Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez reintroduced in Congress their proposal for the Green New Deal. The resolution, introduced into both chambers of Congress, calls on the United States to “take a leading role in reducing emissions through economic transformation.”
The Green New Deal, first introduced in Congress in 2019, is a wide-ranging policy framework that aims to reverse the effects of climate change while redirecting the economy toward a more sustainable future. It has often been referred to as a “progressive wish list,” particularly by members of the Republican Party, which has uniformly rejected the proposal.
But with Democrats having captured both the presidency and the Senate in the recent election cycle, the progressive wing of the party is hoping to advance the Green New Deal. Like so many other progressive goals for this Congressional term, though, the biggest roadblock may not be Republicans, but centrist Democrats like Senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema.
Markey and AOC reintroduce the New Green Deal
At a press conference on April 20, Markey and Ocasio-Cortez discussed their bicameral proposal, which includes 12 co-sponsors in the Senate and 101 co-sponsors in the House.
“The Green New Deal isn’t just a resolution, it is a revolution,” Markey said of the proposed agenda. “The Green New Deal provides the framework we need to confront the intersecting crises our country faces – climate change, a public health pandemic, racial injustice, and economic inequality. We can transform our economy and our democracy for all Americans by addressing the generational challenge of climate change.”
Ocasio-Cortez added, “The Green New Deal has three core components: jobs, justice and climate.” Though the Green New Deal has so far never gotten out of committee, the representative said that it has provided a framework that has shaped “dozens of bills” since it was first introduced in 2019.
Those Green New Deal-shaped bills, Ocasio-Cortez stated, “all contain 1) a commitment to creating good-paying union jobs; 2) prioritizing frontline and vulnerable communities disproportionately affected by climate change – including communities of color, indigenous land, deindustrialized communities and fossil fuel hubs; and 3) reducing greenhouse gas emissions from human sources by 40 to 60% within 10 years and net-zero global emissions by 2050.”
What is the Green New Deal?
The Green New Deal is so named to evoke the New Deal of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which helped guide the US through the Great Depression of the 1930s and substantially remade the nation’s infrastructure and economic systems. The Green New Deal sets forth climate, economic and social goals to be achieved over a 10-year period.
The recent resolution (mostly unchanged from the 2019 version) outlines goals of the Green New Deal to address “several related crises” in the US: “life expectancy declining while basic needs, such as clean air, clean water, healthy food, and adequate health care, housing, transportation, and education, are inaccessible to a significant portion of the United States population.”
The five key Green New Deal goals are: reducing greenhouse gases and toxic emissions, creating “millions of good, high-wage unions jobs,” investing in infrastructure, promoting justice and equity, and guaranteeing that all people in the country have “clean air and water; climate and community resiliency; healthy food; access to nature; and a sustainable environment.”
Among the policy agendas offered to achieve the Green New Deal goals is a focus on transforming the US so it is wholly dependent on “clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources,” and pushing for “clean manufacturing” that would reduce pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and waste.
Beyond the obvious environmental policies, the Green New Deal emphasizes the creation and expansion of union jobs. That includes “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.”
Opposition to the Green New Deal
A day after the Green New Deal resolution was reintroduced into Congress, it was already receiving heavy fire from Republican politicians.
On April 21, Republican Senator Ted Cruz tweeted, “The Green New Deal will destroy the American energy industry as we know it.” Cruz’s claim was met with criticism and mockery as critics pointed out that the private power grid in Cruz’s home state of Texas led to deadly power outages during a winter storm this February.
Cruz’s opposition to the New Green Deal is in line with the Republican Party as a whole. In February 2019, when progressive Democrats began discussing the Green New Deal, the GOP aggressively came out against the policy framework.
Calling it both a socialist and progressive “wish list,” Republicans decried the proposals as “expensive government-run and taxpayer-funded programs.” The party members also said the Green New Deal was “flawed, costly, and impractical,” asserting that the proposal’s 10-year goal for 100% renewable energy in the US was unrealistic and would cost American jobs.
Opposition to the Green New Deal isn’t purely partisan, though. In 2019, Democratic Senator Manchin, who is generally considered the most conservative member of the party, voted against the Green New Deal, saying there needed to be a place for fossil fuels in the US’ energy future.
Likewise, Democratic Senator Sinema also voiced her opposition to the Green New Deal in 2019, saying, “We need to address a changing climate with realistic, achievable solutions. Congress should stop the political games and work together on practical solutions that foster a healthy environment, grow our economy, and help Arizona families get ahead.”
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