The Green New Deal is already changing the terms of the climate action debate

The Green New Deal is already changing the terms of the climate action debateWhat a splendid irony it would be if the enduring legacy of Donald Trump’s presidency was the Green New Deal – a radical, government-directed plan to transition the US to a socially just society with a zero-carbon economy.

Of course, it isn’t Trump’s idea. The Green New Deal was first proposed a decade ago, but has only recently captured the public imagination. Environmental activists from the “Sunrise Movement” protested in the office of House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, on November 13 2018, demanding the deal. And they were joined by recently elected congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has argued passionately on behalf of the plan ever since.

Still, it’s partly thanks to Trump and the shock of his election that radical ideas are getting a hearing and his opponents are being forced to think bold. That’s just what is needed if the world is to get serious about tackling climate change.

Alongside an aim for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and 100% renewable energy, the Green New Deal demands job creation in manufacturing, economic justice for the poor and minorities and even universal healthcare through a ten-year “national mobilisation”, which echoes President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s.

The UK has, for the past decade, thought of itself as a climate leader. It’s true that the 2008 Climate Change Act, which sets a legally-binding framework for carbon reduction, is ambitious compared to legislation in many other countries.

But the UK’s approach – like so many other countries – is based on quiet consensus. So far, climate politics has been a polite conversation between government, industry and researchers, not a subject of heated debate in parliament.

The Green New Deal is already changing the terms of the climate action debateYouth climate strikes highlighted the gulf between popular sentiment on climate change and government action. Diana Vucane/Shutterstock

My research with UK politicians shows a reluctance to speak out on climate change, as many prefer a low-key approach – dressing up climate action in the language of economic policy and market mechanisms to avoid confrontation with colleagues, the electorate or the industries that risk losing out in the shift to a low-carbon economy.

Some members of parliament even told me that they deliberately avoid mentioning climate change in speeches to the House of Commons or in their constituency, fearing it could backfire. One worried that he would be branded a “zealot”, and marginalised by his colleagues if he argued too vociferously in favour of climate action.

This approach is severely limiting. Moving to a zero-carbon society will require changing the way that people live in their homes, travel around, shop, eat and source their food. It’s impossible to do all this without people noticing and attempting to impose change from above, without social consent, may also cause a backlash.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, found this to his cost when he tried to implement fuel tax rises which disproportionately affected poorer consumers. The result was the Gilets Jaunes protests which erupted in France in late 2018.

Climate policies should involve and excite people by addressing their concerns and aspirations. Climate policy proposals have typically centred around technically optimal solutions – trying to establish the least disruptive or costly approach, without paying attention to the question of whether people might vote for them.

Barack Obama’s well-intentioned climate policies as US president fitted this mould. His Clean Power Plan, which sought incremental carbon reductions from existing power stations, was a pragmatic response to a divided political scene.

After decades of technocratic and consensus-building climate politics, the Green New Deal swaggers onto the scene – an avowedly political and idealistic take on climate action.

The Green New Deal’s first victory

The Green New Deal was put forward as a Resolution to the House of Representatives, by Ocasio-Cortez and supporters from both houses on February 5 2019. It’s only a non-binding statement of intent at this stage and would require complex legislation. Bold political plans often founder on the rocks of implementation, especially when politics are as fractious as in the current Congress.

But the Green New Deal has already succeeded in one important aspect: it puts climate policies on the agenda that are as ambitious as the science of climate change demands. This makes it impossible for opponents to stay silent. The Green New Deal is forcing Democrats and Republicans to consider their own stance on climate change.

Some Democrats have branded the plan as unrealistic – a “green dream”, as Pelosi called it. Veteran senator, Diane Feinstein, was similarly dismissive, when young campaigners asked for her support. Republicans, meanwhile, have branded it a socialist takeover to rally their own supporters. But the Green New Deal’s opponents can’t simply criticise. They will need to find their own answer to the climate question.

For the Republicans, denying or dismissing the science of climate change is becoming less tenable by the day. The impacts of climate change are mounting, public concern is rising, and schoolchildren are striking.

The Green New Deal has drawn attention to a gaping hole in right-wing politics – the confident articulation of a climate strategy. If you agree with the scientific consensus that rapid action is necessary, but you don’t like the strongly social flavour of the Green New Deal, what do you propose in its place?

In the UK, the fog of Brexit has clouded any serious political debate on climate change, but when politicians manage to take a breath, they too will face the same challenge. The Labour Party has promised action but the Conservatives have been told that their own commitments aren’t compatible with the Paris Agreement and so they, too, need a plan.

The fight is not nearly won. But the Green New Deal is already succeeding in putting climate action where it belongs, as the defining political issue of our time. How strange that we have dysfunctional US politics to thank for this huge step forward.The Conversation

About The Author

Rebecca Willis, Researcher in Environmental Policy and Politics, Lancaster University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Related Books

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook-icontwitter-iconrss-icon

 Get The Latest By Email

{emailcloak=off}

LATEST VIDEOS

Fossil Fuel Production Plans Could Push Earth off a Climate Cliff
by The Real News Network
The United Nations is beginning its climate summit in Madrid.
Big Rail Spends More on Denying Climate Change than Big Oil
by The Real News Network
A new study concludes that rail is the industry that's injected the most money into climate change denial propaganda…
Did Scientists Get Climate Change Wrong?
by Sabine Hossenfelder
Interview with Prof Tim Palmer from the University of Oxford.
The New Normal: Climate Change Poses Challenges For Minnesota Farmers
by KMSP-TV Minneapolis-St. Paul
Spring brought a deluge of rain in southern Minnesota and it never seemed to stop.
Report: Today's Kids' Health Will Be Imperiled by Climate Change
by VOA News
An international report from researchers at 35 institutions says climate change will threaten the health and quality of…
How Supercharged Trash Gas Could Produce More Green Energy
by InnerSelf Staff
Synthetic compounds called “siloxanes” from everyday products like shampoo and motor oil are finding their way into…
300 Million Face Severe Risk of Climate-Fueled Coastal Flooding by 2050
by Democracy Now!
As a shocking new report finds that many coastal cities will be flooded by rising sea levels by 2050, Chile’s President…
Climate Warning: California Continues To Burn, Data Estimates Of Global Flooding
by MSNBC
Ben Strauss, CEO and Chief Scientist of Climate Central joins MTP Daily to discuss alarming new information about…

LATEST ARTICLES

Lessons From The Hockey Rink Could Help Ontario Tackle Climate Change
Lessons From The Hockey Rink Could Help Ontario Tackle Climate Change
by Jennifer Lynes and Dan Murray
The Auditor General of Ontario’s recent report found the province’s current climate change plan is not based on “sound…
Climate Change Threatens A Scary Number Of Plant Species
Climate Change Threatens A Scary Number Of Plant Species
by InnerSelf Staff
Almost 40% of global land plant species are very rare, and these species are most at risk for extinction as the climate…
How Drought Is Affecting Water Supply In Australia’s Capital Cities
How Drought Is Affecting Water Supply In Australia’s Capital Cities
by Ian Wright and Jason Reynolds
The level of water stored by Australia’s capital cities has steadily fallen over the last six years. They are now…
How Jet Stream Changes May Hit Global Breadbaskets
How Jet Stream Changes May Hit Global Breadbaskets
by Alex Kirby
Food shortages and civil disturbances may result from changes in the jet stream winds which circle the Earth,…
How To Design A Forest Fit To Heal The Planet
How To Design A Forest Fit To Heal The Planet
by Heather Plumpton
Reforestation has enormous potential as a cheap and natural way of sucking heat-absorbing carbon dioxide out of the…
Investors Fight Back Against Climate Wreckers
Investors Fight Back Against Climate Wreckers
by Paul Brown
Investors are using their shareholdings to force polluting companies to change their ways and cut carbon emissions.
Americans Are Worried About Climate Change, But Underestimate How Serious It Is
Americans Are Worried About Climate Change, But Underestimate How Serious It Is
by Bobby Duffy
The world is often better and getting better than people think. Murder rates, deaths from terrorism and extreme poverty…
How Climate, Not Conflict, Drove Many Syrian Refugees To Lebanon
How Climate, Not Conflict, Drove Many Syrian Refugees To Lebanon
by Hussein A. Amery
People who fled Syria in recent years are often viewed as war refugees because of the violence that has engulfed much…