House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone speaks at a press conference in March.
Photo: AP

A federal Green New Deal has remained a dream-like idea since Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Massachusetts Democratic Senator Ed Markey introduced a proposal to do just that in February (and since the Senate shot it down in March). Other Green New Deals have taken hold on the local and state level—I’m looking at you Los Angeles and Maine—but so far, Republicans and Democrats alike haven’t passed anything like it at the federal level.

Now, House Democrats are trying to ensure a national Green New Deal never happens by, instead, proposing on Tuesday that the U.S. go 100 percent net-zero emissions by 2050. The Green New Deal, as Ocasio-Cortez and Markey proposed, set a more ambitious target: 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 to help the U.S. meet net-zero emissions in 10 years. Adding an extra two decades years to the timeline may be 20 years too late.

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Here’s the problem: We only have a decade to get our shit together, as a bombshell report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found last year. Sure, that same panel put forth 2050 as a deadline to reduce emissions globally, but that’s a global goal. The United States is one of the biggest pollution emitters on the planet. We’ll need to move a bit more quickly than our peers in, say, Spain or Costa Rica, both of which are already way ahead of us.

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Plus, that’s a goal to avoid the worst of it. We’re already seeing what climate change can do (supercharged hurricanes and terrifying wildfire seasons, to name a few of the consequences). Why do the bare minimum when lives are at risk? House Democrats like to say that the Green New Deal is unrealistic or too ambitious, so this is their more realistic alternative. The reality is, however, that lack of action is costing lives—and those putting forth this soon-to-be policy at least acknowledge that.

“Communities across the country are suffering from historic flooding, raging wildfires, increasingly severe storms, extreme heat, and persistent droughts,” Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, a New Jersey Democrat, said in a committee statement. “The climate crisis is here, and it requires serious federal leadership that’s up for the challenge.”

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He’s right: The climate crisis does require serious leadership. That’s why AOC stepped up to the plate with her bold resolution to transform the country’s entire economy and energy sectors by pivoting immediately to renewable energy while prioritizing the safety and needs of communities of color, low-income communities, and the nation’s most vulnerable—whom climate change is set to fuck over first and worst.

To be fair, this latest Democrat idea is better than nothing. And it’s certainly better than the Republican’s Green Real Deal, which didn’t even set a date for lowering emissions. The committee members who introduced this proposal in a press conference Tuesday were clear that formal legislation will accompany their announcement by the end of the year. Maybe they’ll surprise us with some truly revolutionary shit, but I doubt it.

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Some climate activists are unamused, too. Sunrise Movement, which helped champion the Green New Deal resolution, published a statement to Twitter Tuesday that highlighted the lack of urgency in the climate proposal.

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“It’s great that Democratic leaders are finally laying out their plan to make a plan to confront the climate emergency,” said Sunrise Co-founder Varshini Prakash, in the statement. “Pallone and Democratic leaders are right that this is a crisis. But by setting a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 here in the United States, they’re not acting like it.”

Tell ‘em, sis.

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