Since her victory over Joe Crowley in the NY-14 2018 Democratic Primary, representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has unquestionably become a rising star among progressives. Her participation in a protest led by the youth-fueled, climate action-oriented Sunrise Movement inside Nancy Pelosi’s office just a week after her general election victory sent two clear signals: One, that Ocasio-Cortez is committed to challenging the leadership of the Democratic party to push progressive priorities at the forefront of the party’s legislative agenda. And two, aggressive and sweeping action to combat climate change should be at the forefront of that agenda.
After the protest, Ocasio-Cortez began to rally her peers around an idea championed by the Sunrise Movement: creating a new select committee within the House of Representatives to draft a Green New Deal that would transition the economy away from its dependency on fossil fuels. Eleven of her colleagues have so far endorsed its creation. Representative Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) even went so far as to tweet that Ocasio-Cortez should be its chair.
So what exactly would the Select Committee for a Green New Deal do? The mission of the 15-member committee is undoubtedly ambitious. By New Year’s Day 2020, it is required that a complete and thorough plan to make the United States carbon neutral is written and is finalized by the first day of March in that same year.
Resting upon the implementation of The Green New Deal are seven essential goals. First, the entire country is completely powered by renewable energy sources. Second, the creation of a national smart grid. Third, all buildings are secure and energy efficient. Fourth, the decarbonization of industry. Fifth, the decarbonization, construction, and improvement of transportation and infrastructure. Sixth, the investment in carbon capture technologies. Seventh, make green technology, knowledge, and products a main export of the United States to brand the country as a global leader in combating climate change.
Additionally, the Green New Deal goes further to ensure that not only the energy system is transformed, but also that the country changes for the better too, both economically and socially. Its potential to “virtually eliminate poverty” is wrapped around the idea that the plan will include numerous social welfare initiatives. A job guarantee would give every willing person a job with a living wage. This would include labor union-led job training and education for everyone. The plan would also acknowledge the disproportionate affects climate change and pollution have on low income households, indigenous communities, and people of color. Basic income and universal healthcare policies will also be part of the Green New Deal.
To finance the plan, the distribution of credit by the Federal Reserve is proposed along with public banking and public venture funds.
What is most important about this committee is that it lays the policy groundwork for the Democratic Party leading into the 2020 elections. If the Green New Deal becomes the official national development plan for Democrats, it would unite the party around a clear set of progressive priorities. Say the Democratic presidential candidate defeats Donald Trump. By the time the Democrat is inaugurated (in fact, before the Democratic primary ends!) there is already a package of legislative initiatives that are just waiting to be passed by the legislative branch and signed by the executive. Year one, and already the United States has universal healthcare, a job guarantee, public investment banks, and a comprehensive plan to tackle climate change. The potential here is enormous.
Though not specifically stipulated in the plan, like the New Deal of the 1930s, the Green New Deal can also include measures for progressive taxation and financial regulation. The Green New Deal can even go further to rewrite trade rules and drastically reform U.S. foreign policy too. All of this would help create the healthy, prosperous, and inclusive society that is enshrined in the Green New Deal.
Yet to push the committee forward is no easy feat. As Varshini Prakash, the co-founder and spokesperson of the Sunrise Movement, states, the push for a Green New Deal:
“…is really the battle for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party. Sunrise sees itself as a part of that, as pushing the party to first and foremost become a party of the people, not just of wealthy interests, and pushing the party to actually protect the interests of all working people — black, brown and white — for generations to come.”
All of this comes in the wake of a government report released on November 23 that projects that the effects of climate change will severely impact the U.S economy and increase the amount of premature deaths per year by the thousands.