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28th February 2019

America’s Green New Deal

Democrats are pushing the Green New Deal as a radical policy platform to combat climate change. What’s in the deal, and why has it faced opposition?
America’s Green New Deal
Photo: Senate Democrats @ Wikimedia Commons

New life has been breathed back into the climate change debate with the launch of the Democrat’s Green New Deal. This controversial and demanding deal has been labelled by some as overly ambitious, but it is a clear sign that both change, and carbon dioxide, are in the air.

Our neighbours across the pond have been embroiled in a decades-long debate over the legitimacy of scientists’ claims about climate change. Many influential figures, including the President, loudly dismiss graphs and statistics. However, a poll by the University of Yale has revealed that the American people do not. With US concerns about climate change at an all-time high, the Yale poll found that 73% of Americans believe in climate change, 69% are concerned about it and, perhaps most shockingly, 81% would support the Green New Deal (GND). So why is this support not resonating with politicians?

The GND was introduced by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey as a way of re-imagining the American economy so as to tackle many problems that exist within the country currently, the main one being rising temperatures. The deal links climate change to issues such as accessibility of clean water, healthy food, and education.

It calls for a 10-year decarbonisation of the US economy so has to be carbon neutral by 2050. It demands that the government guarantee jobs with family leave, retirement security, and for all buildings to be upgraded ensuring maximum efficiency. Critics are saying this is overly ambitious. Many fear that the bluntness of the GND risks disillusioning key figures in the climate change battle and does nothing except exacerbate the Republican-Democrat split. The 31-year time frame is also criticised for being too tight and requiring too much money.

However, the 2050 carbon neutral goal is not unique to America. The UK has had long established climate laws and is currently holding talks to discuss tightening them so as to produce no net carbon by 2050. This is the same goal that the EU currently has. Globally, leading the way is Costa Rica. They too have set a zero net carbon emissions goal for 2050, but with considerably more fire than others. One of the plans proposed in one of their bills is to ensure that, by 2050, all taxis and buses run on electricity and an electric train line will be established. Environmental Minister, Carlos Manuel Rodríguez aims to have 70% of the nation’s buses running on electricity alone by 2035.

One of the reasons this plan has not sparked the same outrage seen in the US is that the country has made changes over the past few years to ensure that greener living will not be detrimental to the economy. Last year 98% of the country’s electricity came from renewable sources (according to the state-owned electrical generation firm) and 3% economic growth was achieved.

The GND also draws on some ideas that are controversial in America, such as making healthcare more accessible. Another sore spot is the military. With the total cost of implementing the GND being estimated at roughly $13.4 trillion, opponents of the deal are arguing that the country cannot afford it. The Democrat’s proposed solution in the GND is to cut military spending by “at least half”. It is pitched as a way of bringing the troops home to their loved ones, but armed forces are a contentious political tool in the US. Cutting their military spending may even turn moderate Americans against the deal.

It is too early to tell if the GND will be successful, but recent warnings show that global temperature has risen by 2°C this century. The youth group Sunrise Movement has launched a tour around swing states in support of the GND, and it is evident that climate change is being placed back on the Democrat agenda.

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