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The Green New Deal – How It Started & Where It’s Going
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Green Politics Around The World

The Green New Deal is a growing political platform with roots in the United States dating back to the late 1960s. Over the last few years there has been a resurgence of these environmental policies under the banner of The Green New Deal. The growing concern of climate change has brought a renewed focus on environmental policy. What was once a quite and grassroots movement has been thrusted to the forefront of American politics.

In 2009 the United Nation published a report on climate and energy development, titled “A Global Green New Deal for Climate, Energy, and Development”. The report called for international communities to incentivize the development of renewable energy projects by exploring cost reduction schemes for solar and wind energy deployment. Urging that these policies provide employment opportunities, mitigate climate change risks, and improve energy security around the world.

Since then, these recommendations have taken shape internationally. Most notably in 2016 when 195 countries signed the Paris Agreements, pledging to reduce carbon emissions worldwide. Ultimately, the Paris Agreement’s long-term goal is to keep global average temperatures below 2 °C by mitigating greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation and creating finance schemes for renewable energy. At times, these policies have met its fair share of opposition, and maybe rightfully so.

When you look at examples like the government tax reforms implemented by the French government, some of the pitfalls of this kind of legislation begin to rear its ugly head. France, in an effort to combat pollution and carbon emissions – passed taxes on gas and fossil fuels. This legislation was started by the French government back in 2014 to regularly raise the tax on fossil fuel and take lead in the fight against global climate change. Essentially trying to disincentive the consumption of fossil fuels by making it more expensive.

 

 

While well intentioned – the implementation of the tax caused protest and riots all across Paris. Dubbed the “yellow vest protests”, protesters took to the streets to protest the unfair taxation to poor and middle class french citizens. Many arguing the taxes unfairly put the weight of the burden on working class people. Further increasing the cost of living for already stretched citizens.    

 

Green Politics In America

Across the Atlantic Ocean in America, legal action on climate change has been much slower, but dates as far back as the 1960s. The formation of the Environmental Protection Agency began on the heels of legislation similar to Green New Deal policies. Beginning in the late 1950s and through the 1960s, there was increasing public concern about the impact that human activity could have on the environment.

Santa Barbra Oil Spill

An aerial view of Santa Barbara Harbor coated with the advancing oil slick from Union Oil’s Platform “A.” February 14, 1969. (University of California Santa Barbara Map and Image Library)

The formation of the Environmental Protection Agency came as a result of the The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  National interest in this kind of legislation grew out of urban planning battles between Jane Jacobs vs. Robert Moses in NYC and the Santa Barbara oil spill in early 1969 just as the NEPA legislation was being drafted in Congress.

President Nixon signed NEPA into law on January 1, 1970. The law created the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in the Executive Office of the President. NEPA required that a detailed statement of environmental impacts be prepared for all major federal actions significantly affecting the environment. On July 9, 1970, Nixon proposed an executive reorganization that consolidated many environmental responsibilities of the federal government under one agency, a new Environmental Protection Agency. Forming the EPA as we know it today. After the EPA was formed, environmental policy when back into the background of American politics. 

Not until 50 years later, when the Obama administration pass several policies that temporarily subsidized renewable energy by providing tax credits for renewable energy projects. While these tax credits helped spur the development of renewable energy across the country. Those tax credits expired in 2016 at the end of the Obama administration and beginning of the Trump administration in Washington D.C.

Today several US leaders, including President Trump, actively deny climate change and downplay the benefits of renewable energy deployment. Putting into question American progress on climate change and renewable energy. With passing political tides environmentally progressive policies have expired in favor of more traditional energy sources like coal and oil. Resources most scientists and environmentalists say have detrimental effects on our planets when consumed in excess.

In light of this opposition, it seems there is a growing consolidation amongst politicians and policies towards a unified political platform in the US, dubbed “The Green New Deal”. The Green New Deal has been building up in American politics for quite some time now. Although under quite and decentralized movements.

Before there was any talk of a Green New Deal, the US saw the formation of a whole new political party to address some of the environmental concerns that were being ignored for decades. The Green Party, as the US political faction was called, first gained widespread public attention during the 2000 US presidential election. That year the ballots featured Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke. They went on to win only 2.7% of the popular vote, but more importantly they established a third party in modern American politics and helped influence the larger political landscape. The 2016 US presidential also saw the Green Party make another unsuccessful bid for the lands highest executive office – this time under the leadership of Jill Stein.

Now these policies are beginning to gain widespread support within the Democratic party. Several key democratic leaders going on to cosponsor a Green New Deal bill, which was introduced on February 2nd, 2018 to the House of Representative. This bill borrows many of the environmental tenets of the Green Party, possibly indicating some kind of consolidation. The primary sponsor of the bill is democratic senator Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

 

 

 

At its essences, the US version of The Green New Deal is an economic stimulus program that aims to address both economic inequality and climate change. The name is rather ironic as the bill refers to the original, New Deal. The New Deal was a combination of economic reforms and public works projects undertaken by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in response to the Great Depression of the 1920s.

They say history repeats itself. And The Green New Deal is a great example of that saying. Much of the Green New Deal platform bears resemblance to the original New Deal enacted by the Roosevelt administration starting in 1933.  

 

The Original New Deal

The New Deal was a series of government programs and projects instituted during the Great Depression by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The market crash of 1929 caused millions of Americans to lose their savings and fall into debt. In the wake of this economic crisis, The New Deal platform aimed to regulate Wall Street from speculative and fraudulent activity, provide relief for farmers and unemployed, and establishing social security for millions of Americans.

While ultimately these policies didn’t exactly revive the shrinking US economy. Over the course of eight years, the Roosevelt administration instituted several government agencies to protect Americans and provide support during the difficult times. Some of these agencies included the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)  to protected depositors bank accounts. The Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) formed to protect the investing public from fraudulent stock-market practices. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to facilitate home financing, improve housing standards, and increase employment in the home-construction industry. And the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the government agency which regulates the communication industry.

 

FDR

Photograph of Franklin D. Roosevelt at his home in Hyde Park, New York, delivering a national radio address.

 

Perhaps the most far-reaching programs of the entire New Deal was the social security measures enacted between 1935 and 1939. These measures provided American citizens with old-age and widows’ benefits, unemployment compensation, and disability insurance.

The New Deal was followed by the “Fair Deal” under the Truman administration calling for expanded Social Security, new wage and working hour regulations, and the establishment of the Fair Employment Practices Act that would prevent racial or religious discrimination in hiring. Further entrenching New Deal policies into the American fabric. Then in 1939 World War II broke out in Europe and in 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor plunging the US into the war.

 

The Green New Deal

Now a similar legal framework to the New Deal is proposed with The Green New Deal. Supporters of a Green New Deal advocate a combination of Roosevelt’s economic approach with modern ideas such as renewable energy and resource efficiency. As it stands, The Green New Deal aims to lay out the legal groundwork for the legislative and executive branches of the US government to act on the challenges faced by millions of Americans. The legislation aims to avert human contribution to pollution and climate change. While seeking to address issues of systematic oppression of indigenous groups, minority communities, and immigrants.

 

The Green New Deal outlines the following goals, as described on the US Congress official database:

  • achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions;
  • establishing millions of high-wage jobs and ensuring economic security for all;
  • investing in infrastructure and industry;
  • securing clean air and water, climate and community resiliency, healthy food, access to nature, and a sustainable environment for all; and
  • promoting justice and equality.

The resolution calls for accomplishment of these goals through a 10-year national mobilization effort. The resolution also enumerates the goals and projects of the mobilization effort, including:

  • building smart power grids (i.e., power grids that enable customers to reduce their power use during peak demand periods);
  • upgrading all existing buildings and constructing new buildings to achieve maximum energy and water efficiency;
  • removing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation and agricultural sectors;
  • cleaning up existing hazardous waste and abandoned sites;
  • ensuring business persons are free from unfair competition; and
  • providing higher education, high-quality health care, and affordable, safe, and adequate housing to all.

The Green New Deal now moves on to be referred to different subcommittees in congress. This bill touches many parts of government, as such, many different sub communities now have to weigh in on the bill and how to go about it. Perhaps this is the first step of broader legislative and executive action on climate change and inequality.

What is still unclear about the legislation is what specific action will be taken and it’s potential effect on Americans. What laws will be passed as the effect of the bill? How will taxes be  administered toward meeting the goals laid out. Which government bodies will be tasked with executing this agenda? And probably the most critical question will it even pass the senate floor?

You can read the exact specifics of the bill as it currently stand at Congress.gov an official database for the US Congress.

 

For more stories like this, check out our post on Scott Pruitt resigning as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

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