With freshman Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez leading the charge, Democrats in Congress have unveiled their ambitious Green New Deal that would implement sweeping reforms with the promise to drastically reduce US carbon emissions while adding millions of jobs and investing heavily in American infrastructure.
On Thursday, Ms Ocasio-Cortez was joined by Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey in announcing the slate of measures, with reads as something of a progressive manifesto with the lofty ambition to overhaul the American economy and, hopefully, save the world from the dangers posed by climate change.
“Today is the day that we truly embark on a comprehensive agenda of economic, social and racial justice in the United States of America,” Ms Ocasio-Cortez said from outside the US Capitol.
“That’s what this agenda is all about,” she said. “Because climate change – climate change and our environmental changes are one of the biggest existential threats to our way of life – not just as a nation but as a world”.
In his remarks, Mr Markey compared the plan set forth by himself and Ms Ocasio-Cortez to the kinds of efforts taken before by American visionaries to bring astronauts to the moon.
“I say today that it is time for us to be bold once again," he said. "We have the technology to do it. We have the moral obligation. We have the economic imperative. We just need the political will to get this done. The sun is setting on the dirty energy of the past. Today marks the dawn of a new era of climate action".
Here’s what you need to know:
The deal is not a piece of legislation — it is a framework for a dramatic restructuring of the US economy
The resolution released by Ms Ocasio-Cortez and Mr Markey offer a range of actions that they view as necessary to combat the immense threats posed by climate change. It is also non-binding, meaning that it would not be necessary for the provisions to be enacted if it is voted on and passed.
With 60 House cosponsors and nine cosponsors in the Senate, the ideas put forth would include massive infrastructure investment challenges already posed by climate change, including efforts to mitigate the increasing impacts of drought, wildfires, and rising sea levels the world has already seen.
The deal also focuses on economic concerns of Americans who are suffering from wage stagnation, and a growing wealth disparity in the country.
Altogether, the relatively short document released on Thursday by supporters of the deal includes a preamble, five goals, 14 projects, and 15 requirements.
The deal proposes a prescription to combat rising costs of climate change
Recent climate change reports have put forth dramatic predictions on how damaging climate change will be. Forests will burn as a result of drought, food will become scarce, coastal communities will flood, and any number of species on Earth could face significant hardship.
By 2100, according to some estimates, climate change could lead to as much as $500bn in lost output. Meanwhile, the United Nations warned late last year that the world has just 12 years to keep global temperatures from raising above 1.5C before risking any number of climate related catastrophes, a report that serves to underline the urgency of the deal put forth by Democrats on Thursday.
To combat those costs, the Green New Deal would call for a net-zero carbon emission output in the United States, achieved in part by investment in green American transportation and renewable energies. The loft goal set forth by Democrats would see that emission rate by 2030.
Vulnerable communities are a particular focus in the resolution
As climate change impacts are felt across the country and globe, those most vulnerable in society will be on the front lines, the document says.
That includes communities of color, indigenous people, migrant workers, and the elderly, amongst others.
“Climate change, pollution and environmental destruction have exacerbated systemic racial, regional, social, environment and economic injustices,” the resolution states.
The deal has been received with mixed reaction
While some groups praised the Green New Deal’s unveiling — including some 2020 Democratic hopefuls — not all are on board with the approach.
Progressive groups have criticized the effort for a lack of concrete actions within the resolution itself. The deal sets forth worthy and ambitious goals, those critics have said, but the climate crisis needs concrete legislation.
“We urgently need a bold and ambitious Green New Deal that tackles fossil fuels head-on,” Wenonah Hauter, the executive director of the progressive environmental non-profit Food & Water Watch, told ABC News. “We support the ambition and scale of this resolution, and we are heartened by its recognition that climate change poses a grave threat to healthy food and clean water, but any legislation that does not explicitly address the urgent need to keep fossil fuels in the ground is insufficient”.