Green New Deal

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Green New Deal

New Consensus

A policy group is being formed to support an energized progressive movement that's taken Capitol Hill by storm under the leadership of Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

It's called the New Consensus.

The 501c(3) nonprofit is in the process of being formed to provide a policy platform that will underpin the ambitious — and increasingly politically popular — Green New Deal aimed at weaning the United States off fossil fuels, boosting renewables and clean energy jobs, and building a "smart" grid.

Front and center will be Rhiana Gunn-Wright, a 29-year-old Yale graduate and Rhodes scholar who will serve as the group's policy director working to flesh out details of the plan.

She's working alongside Demond Drummer, an organizer and tech guru slated to serve as New Consensus' executive director. Drummer is also the co-founder and executive director of CoderSpace, a youth tech mentoring and education program on Chicago's South Side.

Gunn-Wright said during an interview she's already busy fleshing out the multipronged plan that's received national attention and revved up Democrats who recently won back the lower chamber. Gunn-Wright said she plans to release her policy in phases over time before heading to Capitol Hill.

"It's not your run-of-the-mill think tank; the aim is for it to be more agile, a bit less of a sitting research entity and more of a critical problem solver," she said. "With the progressive left and all of these new, big ideas that could make people's lives better, the holdup is how to make it happen, how to pay for it."

For Gunn-Wright, a Chicago native, the work is a continuation of her focus on the intersection of policy and politics.

She most recently served as a policy director for the campaign of Democrat Abdul El-Sayed, a first-time candidate who captured the attention of progressives across the nation in the Michigan Democratic gubernatorial primary. El-Sayed ran on an ambitious clean energy platform that called for a shift to all renewables by 2030.

Although Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, a former Michigan state senator who served as minority leader there, bested him to serve as the state's governor, El-Sayed later endorsed Whitmer and vowed to push a progressive agenda on the Hill.

Gunn-Wright said the campaign served as a training ground, her first time running a policy team and doing field work — know-how she plans to bring to New Consensus.

"I learned on that campaign that the best way to equip a progressive idea is to do the work of figuring out 'how,' so that's what I think we're bringing to the Green New Deal," she said. "We'll be the 'how' shop."

The first tranche of New Consensus' policies aims to mobilize the United States to tackle climate change.

That includes the creation of a "climate mobilization office"; ramping up funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E, the Energy Department's research arm; and the creation of a green bank to fund clean energy innovations.

The aim is for those policies to be taken up by lawmakers or a newly revived Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming in the House that Ocasio-Cortez has called for. Under the platform the incoming lawmaker laid out on her website, the committee would produce a draft of the plan by Jan. 1, 2020, and finalize legislation no later than March 1, 2020.

Gunn-Wright said a "climate mobilization office" would serve as a hub for planning and administering an economic mobilization to address the threat of climate change. Whether that will be an office or an agency hasn't been decided.

New Consensus, she added, is drawing inspiration from frameworks set up during World War II used to coordinate government agencies involved in the war effort.

Another focus: boosting funding for ARPA-E. The thought, Gunn-Wright said, is to ensure ARPA-E's funding is on par with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

Also on the table is the creation of a "green bank," a public bank that would be used to invest in zero-carbon technologies under development in the public and private sector that need to be commercialized. The bank would be designed to offer financial enhancements and support to communities that haven't had access to clean energy and transportation, she added.

"We do know what we want a green bank to do and how we'd design it, we just need to design that work at a federal level," Gunn-Wright said.

And that's just the beginning.

Gunn-Wright during the interview outlined the broad framing and structure for a host of future policy ideas focused on decarbonizing the economy, creating climate or green jobs, and ensuring all sectors of the U.S. economy can benefit from a carbonless or zero-carbon economy.

But she also acknowledged the difficulty the progressive movement faces in pushing such an ambitious idea through a Republican-controlled White House and Senate. The urgency of looming climate catastrophe — as evidenced by recent government reports the Trump administration has dismissed — will fuel her work regardless of political pushback, said Gunn-Wright.

"The truth is, the best chances for success are with a Democratic president, House and Senate," she said. "But the reality of what's happening won't change. Climate change is happening, and people will die. It's not going to get easier; the reports will only become more damning and the need for action more urgent."

Part of her policy work will be figuring out the mechanism to pay for such a sweeping and ambitious deal. But Drummer said mechanisms are already being fleshed out.

"Right now we're focused on what needs to be done and how all the pieces fit together," Drummer said. "Then we will focus on how to pay for it. To be clear: It's a question of how we will pay for it — not if we can afford to pay for it. America can afford what we decide to do."[1]

Beginnings

The Green New Deal, which in the past month has come to define the progressive cause in Washington, exists in its most authoritative form as an eleven-page Google Doc. The document was written over a single December 2018 weekend by the staff of the freshman representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and three like-minded progressive groups, none of which existed two years ago: the Sunrise Movement, a grassroots climate organization; the Justice Democrats, which recruits and supports progressive candidates; and an upstart policy shop called the New Consensus. Just about everyone involved was new to lawmaking. “We spent the weekend learning how to put laws together,” Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, told New Yorker journalist Benjamin Wallace-Wells . “We looked up how to write resolutions.”

The format of the document looks familiar: there are sections for “procedure” and “funding.” But its maximalist, aspirational approach is, to say the least, unusual for a legislative document. Its goal is to make the United States greenhouse-gas emission neutral within ten years. That alone would be a historic transformation, but the authors were more ambitious still. Clause (6)(B) begins, “The Plan for a Green New Deal (and the draft legislation) shall recognize that a national, industrial, economic mobilization of this scope and scale is a historic opportunity to virtually eliminate poverty in the United States and to make prosperity, wealth and economic security available to everyone participating in the transformation.” Its seventh subsection suggests, in a dependent clause, the inclusion of a federal jobs guarantee and universal health insurance. The document raises the example of a trillion-dollar investment over ten years, then dismisses it as “wholly inadequate.” To its creators, the scale of the project is not a political complication but a point of pride.

No one who helped draft the resolution expected it to catch on quickly. But it did. Within a few weeks, more than forty-five Democrats in Congress had voiced support for the project, including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, as well as Bernie Sanders. Al Gore called it “part of the answer to global inequality.” There are hard limits on how much power the group has won—House Speaker Nancy Pelosi quickly rejected Ocasio-Cortez’s call for a select committee on the Green New Deal—but its influence has been plain. Christy Goldfuss, who served under President Barack Obama as the managing director of the Council on Environmental Quality and now leads the energy and environmental team at the Center for American Progress, said that she has noticed a change in how more senior Democrats are thinking about climate policy. “People are asking how are we going to address climate change at scale, not what’s our building-block approach,” she said. “For me, that is a huge, huge shift, and it would not have happened if the Green New Deal had not come along.” On the campaign trail, and in the House, Democrats have a confident veneer. They are winning elections; they are younger than the opposition; the press is full of appreciations of Pelosi’s tactical savvy. But to watch the unlikely progress of the Green New Deal is to realize how much of the Party’s program and its sources of moral authority remain up for grabs.

Last spring, Chakrabarti, a thirty-two-year-old veteran of the Sanders campaign, was leading Brand New Congress, an organization that he co-founded to recruit progressive candidates, and which helped persuade Ocasio-Cortez to challenge a powerful Democratic incumbent, Joseph Crowley, in New York’s Fourteenth Congressional District. He became Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign manager, and, at first, he said, “Climate wasn’t the frame in which we were talking about this—we were trying to go back to a place where we as a society were taking on massive challenges, like how do you move people out of poverty into the middle class.” Ocasio-Cortez’s early ads emphasized Medicare for All and free college tuition—the Sanders package—but she herself was a more eclectic figure. In interviews, she credited her political awakening to the anti-pipeline protests she joined at Standing Rock. Eventually, Chakrabarti said, the campaign decided “that this idea of doing a gigantic economic transformation was hard to convey,” and that the concept of a Green New Deal could help. “That’s huge. It’s a gigantic national project to transform our economy.” The theme began to surface in the fall. At a campaign event in October in the Queens neighborhood of College Point, Ocasio-Cortez spoke at length about environmental transformation, calling it “one of the most existential issues for our generation and our time.”

Ocasio-Cortez has been such a practiced presence in the media that her ascent has seemed, from afar, to flow from some design, but Chakrabarti made it sound more chaotic. Her first act when she arrived in Washington for new-member orientation was to join the Sunrise Movement’s sit-in outside Pelosi’s office, to call for a select committee for the Green New Deal. It started with a request for a retweet from the activists, who knew the young congresswoman and her staff only slightly. “Alexandria was, like, ‘Shoot them a retweet? I’m going to join it,’ ” Chakrabarti said. He was more judicious—it would be her first major act as a member of Congress, she would be challenging the Speaker, and it could easily backfire. But it didn’t, and, once the protest drew attention, it seemed necessary to explain what the fuss was about. By the weekend, Chakrabarti was at work with the activists in the Google Doc. “If it’s really not possible, then we can revisit,” he said, of their proposal. “The idea is to set the most ambitious thing we can do and then make a plan for it. Why not try?”

In our conversation, Chakrabarti came across as curious and excitable—he kept using the word “gigantic” to describe the changes he envisioned—and not unlike the young people who, a decade ago, attached themselves to Obama. In the group that joined him to draft the Green New Deal, you can see the emergence of the next generation of the progressive élite: Waleed Shahid, the most prominent spokesman for the Justice Democrats, was the policy director on Cynthia Nixon’s campaign for governor of New York; Rhiana Gunn-Wright, the policy director for the New Consensus, played the same role for the progressive gubernatorial campaign of Abdul El-Sayed, in Michigan. The leaders of the Sunrise Movement are younger still, in their twenties, with at least as great a sense of urgency. “If you look at the latest United Nations I.P.C.C. report, we need a massive transformation of our economy, unlike any we’ve seen in recent history,” Stephen O'Hanlon, a co-founder of the group, told me. The ubiquitous young left-wing activist Sean McElwee, whose weekly East Village happy hours have drawn senators and Presidential aspirants, published an early sketch of what a Green New Deal policy might look like. Some of these people may have thought of themselves as outsiders but, to older Democrats, they must have looked the way rising leaders of the Party always have.

In their draft document, the Green New Deal group writes, “Many will say, ‘Massive government intervention! How in the world can we pay for this?’ The answer is: in the same ways that we paid for the 2008 bank bailout and extended qualitative easing programs, the same ways we paid for World War II and many other wars.” Several of them told me that, on climate policy, Obama had not been audacious enough. “It sounds like hyperbole, but we are fighting to preserve life as we know it,” O’Hanlon said. “A lot of the solutions proposed during the Obama Administration were not up to that scale.” Chakrabarti said that Obama “wasn’t talking about a big mobilization and the solutions were too small.”

This way of thinking isn’t exactly new, either. When Obama appointed the prominent environmental activist Van Jones as his special adviser for green jobs, in 2009, Jones also spoke of a Green New Deal, and was also confident that a climate-driven economic transformation could help correct racial inequities. The Obama economic stimulus, Jones, who is now a CNN commentator, pointed out to me this week, provided more than eighty billion dollars for clean-energy jobs, an investment that the White House expected would be supplemented by a national cap-and-trade program. But the cap-and-trade plan failed in the Senate after being labelled, as Jones put it, “so-called socialism.” Jones said he thought the current movement had certain advantages over his—the environmental crisis is deeper and better understood, the grassroots activists are more diverse and more energized—but the vision was the same. It made sense to him that the idea had come back around. “The most exciting, inspiring vision out there is still the Green New Deal,” Jones said. He expected it to keep resurfacing “until it gets done.”

Democrats have not hesitated, in the Trump era, to call out existential threats to democracy and to the climate. But their campaigns have not often reflected that sense of alarm—their focus in the midterms, a success for the Party, was on the defense of health-care coverage for preëxisting conditions. One early uncertainty of the 2020 Presidential race is how deep a crisis its leaders see. This week a Washington Post reporter, in El Paso, caught a bearded Beto O'Rourke in a Hamlet mode, worrying over illegal immigration and the other great topics of the day. O’Rourke praised the Green New Deal for being “bold” and said, “Thank God, the work has been done to articulate the goal, the vision, the means to achieve it.” The Post’s reporter, Jenna Johnson, noticed that he was vacillating between “a bright-eyed hope that the United States will soon dramatically change its approach to a whole host of issues and a dismal suspicion that the country is incapable of implementing sweeping change.” Which was it, she asked. “Yeah, I think that’s the question of the moment: Does this still work?” O’Rourke said. By “this,” he seemed to mean America.

That old Gen-X tick—transparent uncertainty. No such ambiguity from the Green New Deal faction. Lately Chakrabarti has been reading not just into climate policy but into the history of transformative governmental programs. Sounding a little amazed, he told me about F.D.R.’s “Arsenal of Democracy” speech, which spurred the industrial effort to support the Second World War. “Did you know about this?” Chakrabarti asked. “He gave this great speech, and then he also set production targets: a hundred and eighty thousand planes at a time when America was going to produce three thousand, and we ended up producing three hundred thousand.” He went on, “I don’t know if it’s a uniquely American thing, but I associate it that way. People get excited by this idea of, ‘Let’s come together and defeat this huge enemy through innovation, by solving this crisis.’ I think that’s motivating and inspiring.” Of course the millennial left has been able to set the Party’s mood, as it has returned to Washington this month. It has an idea about how to transform bleakness into hope.[2]

Resolution

We will begin work immediately on Green New Deal bills to put the nuts and bolts on the plan described in this resolution (important to say so someone else can’t claim this mantle).

This is a massive transformation of our society with clear goals and a timeline.

  • The Green New Deal resolution a 10-year plan to mobilize every aspect of American society at a scale not seen since World War 2 to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and create economic prosperity for all. It will:

§Move America to 100% clean and renewable energy

§Create millions of family supporting-wage, union jobs

§Ensure a just transition for all communities and workers to ensure economic security for people and communities that have historically relied on fossil fuel industries

§Ensure justice and equity for front-line communities by prioritizing investment, training, climate and community resiliency, economic and environmental benefits in these communities.

§Build on FDR’s second bill of rights by guaranteeing:·

A job with a family-sustaining wage, family and medical leave, vacations, and retirement security·

High-quality education, including higher education and trade schools·

Clean air and water and access to nature· Healthy food· High-quality health care· Safe, affordable, adequate housing ·Economic environment free of monopolies ·Economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work· There is no time to waste.

  • IPCC Report said global emissions must be cut by by 40-60% by 2030. US is 20% of total emissions. We must get to 0 by 2030 and lead the world in a global Green New Deal.·Americans love a challenge. This is our moonshot.
  • When JFK said we’d go to the by the end of the decade, people said impossible.
  • If Eisenhower wanted to build the interstate highway system today, people would ask how we’d pay for it.
  • When FDR called on America to build 185,000 planes to fight World War 2, every business leader, CEO, and general laughed at him. At the time, the U.S. had produced 3,000 planes in the last year. By the end of the war, we produced 300,000 planes. That’s what we are capable of if we have real leadership· This is massive investment in our economy and society, not expenditure.
  • We invested 40-50% of GDP into our economy during World War 2 and created the greatest middle class the US has seen.
  • The interstate highway system has returned more than $6 in economic productivity for every $1 it cost.
  • This is massively expanding existing and building new industries at a rapid pace – growing our economy· The Green New Deal has momentum. o92 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans support the Green New Deal
  • Nearly every major Democratic Presidential contender say they back the Green New deal including: Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Jeff Merkeley, Julian Castro, Kirsten Gillibrand, Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, and Jay Inslee.
  • 45 House Reps and 330+ groups backed the original resolution for a select committee
  • Over 300 local and state politicians have called for a federal Green New Deal
  • New Resolution has20 co-sponsors, about 30 groups (numbers will change by Thursday).

FAQ

Why 100% clean and renewable and not just 100% renewable? Are you saying we won’t transition off fossil fuels?

Yes, we are calling for a full transition off fossil fuels and zero greenhouse gases. Anyone who has read the resolution sees that we spell this out through a plan that calls for eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from every sector of the economy. Simply banning fossil fuels immediately won’t build the new economy to replace it – this is the plan to build that new economy and spells out how to do it technically. We do this through a huge mobilization to create the renewable energy economy as fast as possible. We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast, but we think we can ramp up renewable manufacturing and power production, retrofit every building in America, build the smart grid, overhaul transportation and agriculture, plant lots of trees and restore our ecosystem to get to net-zero.

Is nuclear a part of this?

A Green New Deal is a massive investment in renewable energy production and would not include creating new nuclear plants. It’s unclear if we will be able to decommission every nuclear plant within 10 years, but the plan is to transition off of nuclear and all fossil fuels as soon as possible. No one has put the full 10-year plan together yet, and if it is possible to get to fully 100% renewable in 10 years, we will do that.

Does this include a carbon tax?

The Green New Deal is a massive investment in the production of renewable energy industries and infrastructure. 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. So we’re not ruling a carbon tax out, but a carbon tax would be a tiny part of a Green New Deal in the face of the gigantic expansion of our productive economy and would have to be preceded by first creating the solutions necessary so that workers and working class communities are not affected. While a carbon tax may be a part of the Green New Deal, it misses the point and would be off the table unless we create the clean, affordable options first. Does this include cap and trade?

The Green New Deal is about creating the renewable energy economy through a massive investment in our society and economy. Cap and trade assumes the existing market will solve this problem for us, and that’s simply not true. While cap and trade may be a tiny part of the larger Green New Deal plan to mobilize our economy, any cap and trade legislation will pale in comparison to the size of the mobilization and must recognize that existing legislation can incentivize companies to create toxic hot spots in frontline communities, so anything here must ensure that front-line communities are prioritized.

Does a GND ban all new fossil fuel infrastructure or nuclear power plants?

The Green New Deal makes new fossil fuel infrastructure or nuclear plants unnecessary. This is a massive mobilization of all our resources into renewable energies. It would simply not make sense to build new fossil fuel infrastructure because we will be creating a plan to reorient our entire economy to work off renewable energy. Simply banning fossil fuels and nuclear plants immediately won’t build the new economy to replace it – this is the plan to build that new economy and spells out how to do it technically.

Are you for CCUS?

We believe the right way to capture carbon is to plant trees and restore our natural ecosystems. CCUS technology to date has not proven effective.

How will you pay for it? The same way we paid for the New Deal, the 2008 bank bailout and extended quantitative easing programs. The same way we paid for World War II and all our current wars. The Federal Reserve can extend credit to power these projects and investments and new public banks can be created to extend credit. There is also space for the government to take an equity stake in projects to get a return on investment. At the end of the day, this is an investment in our economy that should grow our wealth as a nation, so the question isn’t how will we pay for it, but what will we do with our new shared prosperity.

Why do we need a sweeping Green New Deal investment program? Why can’t we just rely on regulations and taxes and the private sector to invest alone such as a carbon tax or a ban on fossil fuels?

The level of investment required is massive. Even if every billionaire and company came together and were willing to pour all the resources at their disposal into this investment, the aggregate value of the investments they could make would not be sufficient.

The speed of investment required will be massive. Even if all the billionaires and companies could make the investments required, they would not be able to pull together a coordinated response in the narrow window of time required to jump-start major new projects and major new economic sectors. Also, private companies are wary of making massive investments in unproven research and technologies; the government, however, has the time horizon to be able to patiently make investments in new tech and R&D, without necessarily having a commercial outcome or application in mind at the time the investment is made. Major examples of government investments in “new” tech that subsequently spurred a boom in the private section include DARPA-projects, the creation of the internet – and, perhaps most recently, the government’s investment in Tesla.

Simply put, we don’t need to just stop doing some things we are doing (like using fossil fuels for energy needs); we also need to start doing new things (like overhauling whole industries or retrofitting all buildings to be energy efficient). Starting to do new things requires some upfront investment. In the same way that a company that is trying to change how it does business may need to make big upfront capital investments today in order to reap future benefits (for e.g., building a new factory to increase production or buying new hardware and software to totally modernize its IT system), a country that is trying to change how its economy works will need to make big investments today to jump-start and develop new projects and sectors to power the new economy.

Merely incentivizing the private sector doesn’t work – e.g. the tax incentives and subsidies given to wind and solar projects have been a valuable spur to growth in the US renewables industry but, even with such investment-promotion subsidies, the present level of such projects is simply inadequate to transition to a fully greenhouse gas neutral economy as quickly as needed.

Once again, we’re not saying that there isn’t a role for private sector investments; we’re just saying that the level of investment required will need every actor to pitch in and that the government is best placed to be the prime driver. Resolution Summary

Created in consultation with multiple groups from environmental community, environmental justice community, and labor community 5 goals in 10 years:

  • Net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers
  • Create millions of high-wage jobs and ensure prosperity and economic security for all
  • Invest in infrastructure and industry to sustainably meet the challenges of the 21st century
  • Clean air and water, climate and community resiliency, healthy food, access to nature, and a sustainable environment for all
  • Promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of front-line and vulnerable communities

National mobilization our economy through 14 infrastructure and industrial projects. Every project strives to remove greenhouse gas emissions and pollution from every sector of our economy:

  • Build infrastructure to create resiliency against climate change-related disasters
  • Repair and upgrade U.S. infrastructure. ASCE estimates this is $4.6 trillion at minimum.
  • Meet 100% of power demand through clean and renewable energy sources
  • Build energy-efficient, distributed smart grids and ensure affordable access to electricity
  • Upgrade or replace every building in US for state-of-the-art energy efficiency
  • Massively expand clean manufacturing (like solar panel factories, wind turbine factories, battery and storage manufacturing, energy efficient manufacturing components) and remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing
  • Work with farmers and ranchers to create a sustainable, pollution and greenhouse gas free, food system that ensures universal access to healthy food and expands independent family farming
  • Totally overhaul transportation by massively expanding electric vehicle manufacturing, build charging stations everywhere, build out high-speed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary, create affordable public transit available to all, with goal to replace every combustion-engine vehicle
  • Mitigate long-term health effects of climate change and pollution
  • Remove greenhouse gases from our atmosphere and pollution through afforestation, preservation, and other methods of restoring our natural ecosystems
  • Restore all our damaged and threatened ecosystems
  • Clean up all the existing hazardous waste sites and abandoned sitesoIdentify new emission sources and create solutions to eliminate those emissions
  • Make the US the leader in addressing climate change and share our technology, expertise and products with the rest of the world to bring about a global Green New Deal

Social and economic justice and security through 15 requirements:

  • Massive federal investments and assistance to organizations and businesses participating in the green new deal and ensuring the public gets a return on that investment
  • Ensure the environmental and social costs of emissions are taken into account
  • Provide job training and education to all
  • Invest in R&D of new clean and renewable energy technologies
  • Doing direct investments in frontline and deindustrialized communities that would otherwise be hurt by the transition to prioritize economic benefits there
  • Use democratic and participatory processes led by frontline and vulnerable communities to implement GND projects locally
  • Insure that all GND jobs are union jobs that pay prevailing wages and hire local
  • Guarantee a job with family-sustaining wages
  • Protect right of all workers to unionize and organize
  • Strengthen and enforce labor, workplace health and safety, antidiscrimination, and wage and hour standards
  • Enact and enforce trade rules to stop the transfer of jobs and pollution overseas and grow domestic manufacturing
  • Ensure public lands, waters, and oceans are protected and eminent domain is not abused
  • Obtain free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples
  • Ensure an economic environment free of monopolies and unfair competition
  • Provide high-quality health care, housing, economic security, and clean-air, clean water, healthy food, and nature to all[3]

References