The Green New Deal doesn’t require a tsunami of government funding

What exactly is the Green New Deal?Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

 

With the prices of solar and wind power, as well as batteries, so low, renewable energy should be spreading like wildfire across the United States. But although many states — such as CaliforniaVermontMinnesota and New York — are boldly forging ahead, most are not.

American environmentalists should cast a glance Europe’s way. There’s a quicker way to go renewable than waiting for a tsunami of state spending that may never come.
The Green New Deal pact, proposed in February by Sen. Edward Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and embraced by scores of other US Democrats, is chock full of vibrant ideas and urgent policy considerations. It’s right that with the climate crisis accelerating faster than scientists predicted and our window to curb it narrowing, we have to think big — indeed, to pursue something at least as sweeping in scope as the New Deal recovery program of the 1930s.
Yet the Green New Deal overlooks some of the key lessons from Europe’s renewables revolution, to the detriment of rolling out renewables as fast as possible in the United States.
Critically, the clean energy boom here in Europe was not ignited foremost by government spending, which the Green New Deal implies is critical for the United States to do the same. Rather, legislation initiated by the EU and the national states opened energy markets to independent renewable-energy producers and revamped the regulatory framework to help ordinary citizens, small businesses and communities to get a foot in the door.
This strategic redesign of energy markets set the stage for Europe’s renewables buildout. “Laws matter,” Toby Couture, director of E3 Analytics, an energy consultancy in Germany, told me, “and they can be a huge driver of investment if you get the details right.”
EU members Austria, Sweden, Portugal, Denmark and Latvia, for example, now generate more than half of their electricity from renewables.
Here’s how it happened
In 1998, at the EU’s behest, Europeans began breaking up the monopolies of the giant corporate utilities that had dominated fossil fuel power generation and distribution for decades.
The legislation forced the large utilities to make way for smaller decentralized entrants, foremost those in renewable energy. National governments, pushed by grassroots environmentalists, introduced rules that prioritized the sale of green energy to the grid and created price supports for investors that helped them recover high investment costs. New consumer rights entitled customers to switch their energy providers at any time, without red tape or other hassles.
“The legislation,” Couture explained to me, “enabled ordinary citizens, farmers, church groups and companies to finance their projects through bank loans. The ever-greater sophistication of renewables technology, mostly solar and wind, gave rise to stable cash flows, profitable projects and investors who could repay large loans.” MORE

Enough of the climate nightmare. It’s time to paint the dream

A new approach must connect the climate crisis with inequality to offer a compelling and attractive way forward for society


‘Tackling the climate crisis offers a profound opportunity to create better lives for people.’ Dunlaw wind farm in the Scottish Borders. Photograph: Murdo Macleod/The Guardian

Let’s talk about the dream, not just the nightmare. Imagine the cities and towns of the future: clean, green, with decent air quality, hospitable to walking and cycling, powered by renewables, with green space, not concrete jungles, and rewarding jobs in green industries. That isn’t just a conceit for the imagination but a tangible vision of the future produced today by Common Wealth, the thinktank of which I am a board member.

Tackling the climate and ecological crisis requires urgently reimagining how we live and work. A Green New Deal – conceived of in the UK, popularised by US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and now powered by social movements here – should not just decarbonise today’s economy but build the sustainable and just economy of tomorrow. That’s why imagining a town transformed by a just transition to a low-carbon future isn’t just a nice piece of design, it is an essential symbol of where the climate movement now needs to take its case. That movement has an unprecedented chance to be heard as a result of the spectacular success of Extinction Rebellion and the school climate strikes in refocusing public attention on the urgency of action. But now, with people listening once again, our duty is to offer a compelling and attractive vision of the future.

For far too long, progressives – myself included – have talked about the climate emergency and economic justice separately

The way we do this is by connecting the two great long-term crises that confront us today: the climate emergency and inequality. This is how we construct a broad and durable coalition that can sustain this unprecedented transformation. As well as truth-telling about the disaster that will confront us if we do not act, with the costs falling on those least responsible, ours must be a story of how we build a more equal, prosperous, democratic society. MORE

They’re Not Just Mad at AOC — They’re Scared of Her

Nancy Pelosi’s war of words with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez isn’t about clashing personalities. It’s about Democratic elites trying to undercut AOC’s bold, left agenda.


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez listens to testimony before the House Oversight Committee on Capitol Hill, February 27, 2019 in Washington DC. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

ust over one year ago, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) sent shockwaves through the mainstream political establishment by ousting ten-term incumbent Democrat Joe Crowley in New York. Running as an open democratic socialist on a platform of redistributive economics, universal health care, bold climate action, and abolishing ICE, she lit a spark under a moribund Democratic Party, becoming an immediate media sensation and capturing the imagination of progressives and young people across the country.In the face of the incredible response to Ocasio-Cortez’s surprise victory, House leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) threw cold water on all the excitement. “They made a choice in one district,” she said. “So let’s not get yourself carried away as an expert on demographics and the rest of that.”

Flash forward to today, and Pelosi’s dismissal of Ocasio-Cortez and her role in the party is again making headlines. This time, the controversy stems from comments Pelosi made to the New York Times’s Maureen Dowd about AOC and her “squad” of fellow freshmen reps Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI): “All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world. But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got.”

Those comments elicited a response from Ocasio-Cortez and her chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti in which they defended the reputation of the four new progressives, calling Pelosi’s characterization “outright disrespectful.”

The ensuing back-and-forth has seen longtime incumbent Democrats pile on criticisms of the squad, with some members accusing Ocasio-Cortez of using “the race card” for suggesting that leadership was “singling out” the newly elected women of color. Even the operatives behind the official House Democrats Twitter account got in on the action, sending out a tweet disparaging Chakrabarti for daring to criticize moderate Democrats over their votes.

Mainstream outlets have characterized the conflict as driven by generational tensions, or (on Pelosi’s side) simply a desire to protect Democratic incumbents from criticism. But the feud in fact speaks to something much deeper: Ocasio-Cortez and her allies are pushing for bold, transformational policies that would upend the current economic and political system. That campaign is coming into open conflict with a Democratic establishment that would prefer to just keep things as they are.

Breaking Ranks With the Establishment

Consider the political backdrop to the current war of words. Pelosi’s “four votes” comment was in reference to a border funding package that Ocasio-Cortez and the squad all voted against, arguing it would provide financing for immigration enforcement more than it would address the humanitarian needs of migrants. The final version of the bill passed by Pelosi included even less aid for migrants than the previous House version, with the few measly concessions secured by the Speaker including a promise from Vice President Mike Pence “that members would be notified within 24 hours of the death of a child in U.S. custody.”

Contrast that dystopian compromise with the stated policy goals of Ocasio-Cortez when it comes to immigration: Repealing laws that criminalize entering the United States without proper documentation, massively increasing US aid to Central America, abolishing ICE — the brutal arm of the US deportation regime that she says “systematically and repeatedly violates human rights” — and even dissolving the Department of Homeland Security, an agency that has been sacrosanct to both the Republican and Democratic parties since its creation after September 11.

This approach to immigration flies in the face of decades of mainstream Democratic Party messaging around the issue, which has consistently centered militarizing the border, criminalizing those who would dare cross it, and deporting immigrants in order to claim the mantle of “toughness.” But the Democratic approach to immigration isn’t just about rhetorical positioning. It also stems from the fact that many Democrats rely on funding from the very same private prison industry that undergirds the horrendous system of migrant detention camps in the United States. MORE

Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez pressure Congress to declare climate change a national emergency

(CNN)Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont teamed up with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Oregon’s Rep. Earl Blumenauer on Tuesday to unveil a new resolution that would declare climate change a national emergency.

“There is a climate emergency which demands a massive-scale mobilization to halt, reverse, and address its consequences and causes,” the bill’s authors wrote. While it does not call for specific action, the legislation states in sharp terms that climate change is a human-made problem that threatens the fortunes of millions of Americans and demands immediate political action.”
The largely symbolic legislation has little chance of making any headway in the Republican-held Senate, but it provides Sanders — who has proposed radical steps to effectively wipe out the fossil fuel industry — with a tangible example of his efforts to take on major problems of particular concern to young voters.
While the Senate resolution originates out of Sanders’ Capitol Hill office, it has obvious implications in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. The Vermont independent has found himself lagging behind former Vice President Joe Biden, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a progressive ally who recently rolled out a preview of her vision for the Green New Deal, is surging. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, too, is enjoying a post-debate bump. Sanders and his team have projected confidence despite the bouncing poll numbers, plowing ahead with policy rollouts and proposals designed to highlight his progressive credentials and priorities. MORE
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As Systems Collapse, People Rise: Seven Faces of an Emerging Global Movement


clockwise, from top left: Extinction Rebellion, Greta Thunberg, Fridays for Future, Sunrise movement

There is a new global movement awakening across the planet. The Fridays For Future (FFF) movement inspired by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg has brought millions of high school students to the streets this year. The grassroots Extinction Rebellion (XR) founded in the UK last year aims to mobilize non-violent climate action worldwide. And in the United States, Sunrise, a youth-led movement that advocates political action on climate change, teamed up with U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (aka AOC) and effectively changed the conversation by proposing the Green New Deal. With the partial exception of Sunrise, most of these movements and their events have largely been ignored by the U.S. media. More important, hardly any of the reporting explicitly acknowledges these movements as expressions of a larger shift in consciousness globally, in particular among young people.

The emerging wave of youth movements in 2019 differs from the 1968 student movement in a variety of ways. One, the key figures are young women, not young men. Two, they are arguing for a change in consciousness, not just for a change in ideology. Three, they are intentionally collaborating with earlier generations, not just fighting against them. And four, they are using technology in intentional and new ways. In this column, I describe seven “faces” or aspects of this shift in global awareness and the youth-led movement that is taking shape now.

1. The Decline of the Far Right

The recent election of the EU parliament, which is the only directly elected supranational body in the world, was remarkable in a number of ways. In comparison with the 2014 election, voter turnout was up by a significant margin (following a steady drop over the previous two decades), and the widely anticipated success of the far-right parties in Europe was a no-show. All the far-right parties could muster was a 5% increase, from 20% to 25% of the votes. To be sure, 25% is still a lot. But it’s much less than projected in almost every country, including Hungary (where Viktor Orban failed to reach his declared objective of a two-thirds majority), and France (where Marine Le Pen won, but did not exceed a percentage in the low 20s). In Germany the AfD didn’t even manage to surpass 10%, remaining in the single digits in western Germany, though up significantly in the former East Germany — a region that has seen almost 60 years of totalitarian regimes since 1933.

2. The Rise of the Greens in Europe

However, the main story of the EU election revolves around something different: the rise of the Green Party. In Germany, the Greens took almost 21% overall. Among young voters in Germany, the Greens — the only party that clearly positions itself pro climate action, pro immigration, pro social justice, pro EU— are now by far the most popular party. Even among voters under age 60, the Green Party ranks first (but with a smaller margin than among the under-30 voters). Even though the Greens remain weak in Eastern and Southern Europe, they gained strength across the board in Western and Northern Europe (e.g., in France to 13.5%) and in Europe overall. MORE

Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez move to declare climate crisis official emergency

Exclusive: Democrats to introduce resolution in House on Tuesday in recognition of extreme threat from global heating


Sanders with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Pramila Jayapal. Data shows nations are not on track to limit the dangerous heating of the planet significantly enough. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

A group of US lawmakers including the 2020 Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders are proposing to declare the climate crisis an official emergency – a significant recognition of the threat taken after considerable pressure from environment groups.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic congresswoman from New York, and Earl Blumenauer, a Democratic congressman from Oregon, plan to introduce the same resolution in the House on Tuesday, their offices confirmed.

A Sanders spokesperson said: “President Trump has routinely declared phoney national emergencies to advance his deeply unpopular agenda, like selling Saudi Arabia bombs that Congress had blocked.

“On the existential threat of climate change, Trump insists on calling it a hoax. Senator Sanders is proud to partner with his House colleagues to challenge this absurdity and have Congress declare what we all know: we are facing a climate emergency that requires a massive and immediate federal mobilization.”

Climate activists have been calling for the declaration, as data shows nations are not on track to limit the dangerous heating of the planet significantly enough. The UN has warned the world is experiencing one climate disaster every week. A new analysis from the economic firm Rhodium Group today finds the US might achieve less than half of the percentage of pollution reductions it promised other countries in an international agreement. MORE

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Apple, Amazon, and the rest of Big Tech all have a lot to learn from the Green New Deal

It’s vital to cut carbon emissions. But tech companies have a responsibility to go a lot further than that—and the ability to do so.


[Source Images: yucelyilmaz/iStock, Djahan/iStock, Jezperklauzen/iStock]

For many years, the biggest technology companies have made pioneering commitments to reducing their energy footprint. Google and Apple claim to be completely carbon neutral: Apple says all its facilities are powered entirely by renewable energy, while Google has become the world’s largest buyer of renewable energy to offset its energy costs. In 2018, Apple said it had reduced carbon emissions by 58% since 2011. Microsoft is on track to reach 60% renewable energy across its data centers by the end of 2019, while Facebook’s goal is to reach 100% renewable energy by 2020. In 2019, Amazon announced that it is aiming to make half of its shipments carbon neutral by 2030, and the company says it has eliminated 244,000 tons of packaging materials, avoided 500 million shipping boxes, and continues to invest in electric vehicles, aviation bio fuels, and renewable energy.

Given that many corporations aren’t as focused on sustainability, the tech companies’ efforts to reduce emissions appear at first to be a good track record. But as the fight against climate change heats up, the big tech companies’ claims and commitments still are not enough to make an impact on a widening emissions gap—in 2018, global emissions levels rose 2.7% after years of not growing at all. The UN says that these levels must drop 55% by 2030 to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

And while much of that growth in emissions can be attributed to a range of corporate bad actors, some leaders in the climate community think tech companies are not doing enough to use their clout and tech prowess to make real change.

“Let’s get over this notion that [tech companies] are some kind of heroes. They’re not,” says Richard Wiles, the director of the Center for Climate Integrity. “They’re doing the least they can do to get the most greenwashing benefit out of it,” he says, referring to the practice of promoting an organization’s environmental record when its products and practices actually aren’t good for the climate.

In February 2019, U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey introduced the Green New Deal resolution, designed to tackle the principal challenges facing the country right now. While this framework’s main goal is for the United States to become net carbon zero by 2030, it also advances a larger, more revolutionary agenda. Because slashing carbon emissions will require overhauling the entire economy, it also demands fixes for other underlying issues: income inequality, housing and healthcare affordability, and race and gender injustice.

As the United States begins the transition to a carbon neutral economy, it’s vital that the biggest technology companies—Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft—lead the way. The “big five” of tech command a significant portion of the economy. The International Monetary Fund estimates their collective worth at $3.5 trillion, more than the GDP of the United Kingdom. What’s more: Their products, hardware, cloud networks, and internet infrastructure touch nearly every industry and every individual. Of all the industries in the U.S., tech’s reach is perhaps the more difficult to conceptualize, but also the broadest.

What happens in the technology industry today radiates out into nearly every corner of the economy. Which is why, for the Green New Deal to take root in the U.S., Big Tech needs to be involved. These major companies have both the capacity for innovation, the economic resources, and the political clout to precipitate the shifts laid out in the Green New Deal framework. Will they decide to take the lead? MORE

Varshini Prakash of the Sunrise Movement on Climate Justice, the Green New Deal, and Revolution

“We didn’t ask to have the responsibility of protecting human civilization on our shoulders. But we’re stepping up to the plate.”

Varshini Prakash
Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash addresses The Road to the Green New Deal Tour final event at Howard University on May 13, 2019. (AP Photo / Cliff Owen)

It was on a Sunday in March 2014 when I first heard Varshini Prakash fire up a crowd. Several hundred young people were crammed into a quadrangle on the Georgetown University campus, ready to march to the White House—where nearly 400 of them would be arrested protesting the Keystone XL and other tar-sands pipelines. A junior at UMass-Amherst at the time, organizing the (successful) fossil-fuel divestment campaign, Prakash, bullhorn in hand, had an emphatic message for Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.

“We don’t want half-baked solutions!” she declared with attention-getting intensity. “We can’t gamble with false promises! We won’t settle for an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy policy when what this looming crisis demands is a none-of-the-above approach to fossil fuels!”

By the fall of 2015, Prakash and a small group of experienced young climate-justice activists had reached the conclusion, correctly, that what they and most of the climate movement were doing wasn’t enough. They realized, as she told me when we sat down for a conversation at a Boston coffee shop in May, “We need a new movement in America for young people.”

What Prakash and her 11 co-founders went on to build is now known to the world as the Sunrise Movement. Last November, with a media-savvy, hundreds-strong sit-in at Nancy Pelosi’s office on Capitol Hill, they famously launched the fight for the game-changing Green New Deal—and reshaped the landscape of the 2020 election campaign. Thanks to their resilience and steely resolve, a carefully considered organizing strategy focused on electoral politics, some fortuitous timing, and the help of—among many other people—a rock-star rookie congresswoman named Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, they have injected an unprecedented urgency and seriousness into the climate debate in this country. MORE

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal: The Canadian Connection

How Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis are helping AOC reboot US politics.

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Echoes of the ‘Leap Manifesto’: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez addresses the Road to the Green New Deal Tour final event at Howard University in Washington, May 13, 2019. Photo by Cliff Owen, AP Photo.

Avi Lewis put the final touches on his script draft, hit send, and waited to find out if he’d be making history with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Lewis is the filmmaker and former CBC host who has collaborated on documentaries with his spouse Naomi Klein, famously the author of global bestsellers No LogoThe Shock Doctrine and This Changes Everything.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — or AOC as her many supporters call her — broke all the rules when she knocked off a powerful, 10-term Democratic member of Congress by running as a “democratic socialist” to win her Bronx and Queens seat.

At age 29, AOC was the big story on election night in November 2018 and still is, thanks to her deft use of social media and her bold policy proposals, notably the Green New Deal, her resolution to transition the American economy off fossil fuels by 2030 and guarantee a green job to anybody who wants one. When Klein proposed she be central to a short film about what could result, Ocasio-Cortez expressed interest.

AOCSunrise.jpg
‘Our plan for a world and a future worth fighting for.’ Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks May 13, 2019, at the wind-up town hall event of the Green New Deal tour organized by the Sunrise Movement. Other speakers included presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Naomi Klein. Photo via Shutterstock

…several of the Canadian thinkers responsible for the Leap Manifesto, a 2015 plan to completely shift Canada away from fossil fuels by 2050, are now playing pivotal roles in shaping and promoting the U.S. Green New Deal. First and foremost: Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis.

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