Photo: AP

The Green New Deal had its big debut in Washington, D.C. last month, and now advocates are set to tour the country touting its bonafides this spring.

On Tuesday, the Sunrise Movement announced its plan to hold 100 town halls around the U.S. starting in April. The events will feature local speakers and politicians talking about how the Green New Deal can address climate change, inequality, and transition the economy to a no-carbon future.

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The town halls are a chance to inform the public about what’s in the Green New Deal, a mix of policy proposals with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Polling shows that the public is largely supportive of the core ideas espoused by the Green New Deal but also isn’t clear on what exactly is in it, or what it would mean locally.

“A big part of this is about showcasing how the Green New Deal will benefit communities across the country,” Stephen O’Hanlon, the communications director for the Sunrise Movement, told Earther.

The group, which has been a galvanizing force behind the Green New Deal since late last year, announced nine flagship stops around the U.S. and put out a call to action for supporters to organize their own town halls. The planned stops range from coast-to-coast and include cities like Boston, New Orleans, Des Moines, and Detroit as well as smaller locales like Richmond, Kentucky in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home state and Paradise, California, the epicenter of last year’s horrific Camp Fire. The tour stops reflect the multiple aims of the Sunrise Movement as it looks to build on momentum around the Green New Deal.

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Stopping in Iowa, for example, reflects the state’s importance as an early battleground in the 2020 presidential primary. Major Democratic candidates have already staked out their claims as climate champions and the town hall there will ensure the Green New Deal stays on voters’ minds (or gets on their radar). Other cities like New Orleans and Paradise highlight places already struggling with the impacts of climate change that the Green New Deal could help.

Meanwhile, Richmond and Detroit are places where communities are being left behind (or could be) by the transition away from coal and gas guzzling cars. Though the plan calls for the transition to be a just one, a number of labor unions representing industries that the transition to a clean economy could upend recently came out against the Green New Deal. Pitching what a just transition looks like and winning support in locations like Detroit will be crucial for the deal’s continued momentum. 

“The tagline we’re using here is making Detroit the engine of the Green New Deal,” Nicholas Jansen, the Sunrise Movement’s Michigan state director, told Earther. “There’s so much potential there to put people back to work [and] lift the people who have been left behind and hurt by climate change.”

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To realize that potential, Jansen said activists will have to overcome suspicion after decades of broken promises to revitalize Detroit and bring together everyone from frontline communities to trade unions. It’s not a small lift, but it’ll have to happen if the deal is to have political life beyond aspirations. And bringing those communities and others around the country together to talk about it is one way to potentially get there.