Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) looking full of joy.
Photo: AP

The first draft of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s hotly-anticipated Green New Deal proposal has finally arrived—and it’s demanding rapid action to confront the threat of climate change.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) are introducing a resolution Thursday that’s a first step toward making the idea of a Green New Deal reality, reports NPR. The Green New Deal aims to rapidly transition the U.S. economy off fossil fuels and over to green, clean-energy sources through a massive jobs program that will keep equity and justice in mind.

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It’s not a new idea, but Ocasio-Cortez and youth climate activist groups like the Sunrise Movement have thrown it into the national spotlight over the past few months. Presidential hopefuls have been listening, too. Now, the Congresswoman’s time to show off its details has arrived.

The proposal, which NPR obtained, doesn’t shy away from outlining some of the extreme potential consequences of climate change if the planet warms 2 degrees Celsius or more beyond preindustrial levels, including $1 trillion in public infrastructure and coastal real estate damage, a loss of 99 percent of the world’s coral reefs, and mass global migration. It also highlights how U.S. workers suffer from massive inequality, a lack of jobs, and shitty wages.

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The deal proposes tackling all these issues at once by transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy in 10 years with the goal of helping the U.S. achieve net-zero emissions. While the proposal doesn’t call for an outright ban on fossil fuels, something it’s already being criticized for, its renewables goal—along with its call to stop the transfer of pollution overseas—“will make new fossil fuel infrastructure or industries obsolete,” said Stephen O’Hanlon, the spokesperson for the Sunrise Movement, told Earther.

Young environmental activists occupy the office of Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) the incoming majority leader, as they try to pressure Democratic support for a Green New Deal back in December 2018.
Photo: AP

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“We’re clear: We need a full transition off fossil fuels,” O’Hanlon said. “Not only do they cause climate change, but they burden communities around the world, especially working class communities and communities of color with deadly pollution.”

This resolution spotlights frontline and vulnerable communities, including “indigenous communities, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth.” The resolution literally lists all these groups, and it calls for radical change that won’t leave them behind.

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In fact, vulnerable groups should be partners in how this plan translates locally. Sure, the Green New Deal calls for clean water, clean air, access to nature, and infrastructure updates, but it also calls for improved access to higher education, universal healthcare, and affordable housing—social benefits the public doesn’t always associate with the environment.

The proposal doesn’t ignore the transportation and agriculture sectors that also emit greenhouse gases, either. And while it calls for further investment in clean energy technology, it doesn’t appear interested in carbon capture technology. Instead, it focuses on natural means of carbon draw-down using soil and forests. This is bound to draw some criticism; many experts believe meeting the Paris goals is likely impossible without this tech.

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Moreover, the resolution doesn’t include any provisions on how this will all happen. How much energy production should come from solar versus wind? By when? How will this all be paid for? Could a carbon tax help?

Ocasio-Cortez addresses some of these questions in a blog post shared Tuesday. On the topic of market-based solutions, she wrote:

We cannot simply tax gas and expect workers to figure out another way to get to work unless we’ve first created a better, more affordable option. Similarly, cap and trade programs assume that existing or new markets can solve this problem for us on their own, and that’s simply not true. The door is not closed for market-based incentives or a diverse array of policy levers to play a role in the Green New Deal, but it would be a small role in the face of the gigantic expansion of our productive economy and would have to be preceded by first creating the solutions in which workers and working class communities are not negatively affected.

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This represents a stark shift away from more traditional climate policy proposals, but the Green New Deal is supposed to revolutionize and disrupt the way things already work. So, that’s not surprising.

It’s important to remember this is still only a resolution. Ocasio-Cortez and Markey are set to introduce bills that’ll fill in the gaps of this skeleton proposal, per NPR. Until then, the Green New Deal is looking like an ambitious wish list rather than a concrete policy solution.

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