Friday, January 4, 2019

A Green New Deal?

So what's all the fuss about a Green New Deal? And what does it even mean anyway?
If you're curious, the excellent David Roberts at Vox has you covered. He has a lengthy "explainer" about the idea which really does explain the idea well and in detail, refreshingly free of the advocacy that creeps into many Vox posts the purport to be explainers.
Among the things he covers:
* The Green New Deal (GND) idea has been around in various guises for at lest 10 years. What is new is not the idea or even many of its component parts, but rather that it's actually getting a bit of political traction.
* Roberts providers a blow by blow on how the idea managed to get the support of 45 members of Congress and work its way much farther into the political debate than it had previously.
* He delineates the specifics of what extant proposals contain and how much (a lot) remains to be worked out in even the most rudimentary form.
Some excerpts:
"Many pieces of the GND have been worked on by many people over the years. The constituent ideas — 100 percent clean energy; a just transition to a new, better economy; massive public sector investments — are not new....
Though the committee fight was discouraging (and not everyone agrees about its tactical wisdom), its reverberations reached well beyond DC. It produced an enormous jolt for the movement.
All the sudden, the left has found something it had lacked for years: an ambitious, positive climate program, something as bold and catchy as “Medicare-for-all” in health care. Advocates and activists are on board and wonks are thinking about the mechanics.
“We thought it would take a year” to get a movement going around the GND, [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez chief of staff Saikat] Chakrabarti says. Instead, “it took weeks.”...
The GND is, at its heart, a form of social-democratic populism. Its intent is to involve the entire citizenry in the shared project of adapting to the 21st century, and in so doing materially improve the quality of life of the poor and middle class. It is an attempt to rebalance the economy and the political system, away from a monomaniacal focus on private goods, toward a more generous view of public goods and public purpose.
At least that’s the idea. But getting from that idea to concrete policy platform that diverse constituencies can rally around (and a broad array of Democrats can endorse) will be a delicate and charged undertaking....
The three core principles of the GND [are] : decarbonization, jobs, and justice
1) The plan must decarbonize the economy.....
That means decarbonizing the US economy: getting the electricity sector to zero carbon as soon as possible and other sectors shortly thereafter. That is a gargantuan undertaking that will touch every American life.
Ocasio-Cortez’s platform calls for 100 percent renewable electricity within 10 years, but very few policy experts believe that is possible. [Greg] Carlock, along with most other wonks in the field, thinks it’s preferable to shoot for 100 percent “clean and renewable energy,” to make room for non-renewable carbon-free options like existing nuclear plants or any new developments in nuclear, biomass, or carbon capture and sequestration. And they also think it’s best to push the target out a bit. (Carlock has it at 2035.)...
2) The plan must include a federal jobs guarantee and large-scale public investments.
Again, the GND is not just climate policy. It’s about transforming the economy, lifting the up the poor and middle class, and creating a more muscular, active public sector....
To that end, the GND would involve large-scale investments, on the order of trillions of dollars over 10 years, alongside a federal jobs guarantee. A job paying at least $15 an hour, with good benefits, would be available to anyone who wanted one.
Politically, this is the key to the GND. It’s a program that can involve everyone and help everyone — and, theoretically, gain support from everyone, even those in red states who do not care about climate change. The investments and the job guarantee take the GND out of the realm of environmental policy and move it into the realm of transformational economic policy....
3) The plan must include a just transition.
Several people I talked to stressed that they want to avoid the mistakes of the original New Deal, many elements of which entrenched or exacerbated racial inequalities. Everyone wants to make sure that the plan includes protections for those hardest hit by historical discrimination and those set to suffer most from the effects of climate change — in Ocasio-Cortez’s document, “low-income communities, communities of color, indigenous communities, [and] the front-line communities most affected by climate change, pollution, and other environmental harm.”
Hoo boy! That's a lot, even if one disregards preposterous ideas like 100 percent clean energy in 10 years. Roberts properly closes his piece with a consideration of three key challenges the GND movement will have to overcome:
* A convincing answer to the obvious question: How will the GND be paid for?
* Winning over the public
* Winning over the rest of the Democratic party
Not easy. But one can be encouraged that there are significant signs of political traction now that weren't there before. This broadens the political conversation in important ways and potentially brings economic and climate change issues together, where they will inevitably have to be.
More on this to come.
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An insurgent movement is pushing Democrats to back an ambitious climate change solution.

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