February 9, 2019 - After much build-up, U.S. lawmakers finalized a nonbinding resolution to establish a Green New Deal, a sweeping set of goals that calls for the country to derive all its electricity from renewable and non-emitting sources within 10 years and achieve "net-zero" greenhouse gas emissions.
The brief joint resolution from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat-New York, and Senator Ed Markey, Democrat-Massachusetts, also advocated for a "fair and just transition" for workers and communities affected by the move to a lower-emitting economy.
But the lawmakers made clear that the proposal, which is not legally enforceable, is simply a first step in drafting bills to lower emissions and make infrastructure more resilient to climate change.
Noting the grim humanitarian, economic and environmental impacts of global warming contained in recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and several U.S. federal agencies, the Green New Deal promotes a "10-year national mobilization" to, among other things, meet 100% of U.S. power demand "through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources."
Other goals of the plan, which its sponsors said is inspired by the post-World War II New Deal program, include deployment of smart grids and helping existing and new buildings achieve "maximum energy efficiency." The resolution also calls for repairing U.S. infrastructure and transportation systems to eliminate as much pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from those sectors "as is technologically feasible."
Furthermore, the proposal seeks to address what it said were disproportionate impacts on low-income households, communities of color, and other vulnerable "frontline" groups from climate change by having them closely consult with Congress on Green New Deal development.
No Specific Technology Solution
During a Thursday press briefing, Markey said that the proposal "does not mention any specific technology" but promotes any resource that dramatically cuts greenhouse gas emissions.
"So while [the resolution] doesn't mention carbon capture and sequestration we are open to whatever works," Markey said. "And we're going to leave it to the committees in the Congress to devise the smartest ways in which those technologies are [incentivized]."
Markey was asked about a fact sheet on the Green New Deal that discouraged reliance on nuclear power. He said such a prohibition "is not part of the resolution." And although the proposal does not explicitly ban fossil fuels, it is aimed at shifting the U.S. away from those resources. "Our energy future will not be found in the dark of a mine but in the light of the sun," Markey said.
Achieving a full transition to renewable power would be a herculean task, with roughly 80% of U.S. electricity generation currently coming from natural gas, coal and nuclear energy. Without major policy changes, the U.S. is only expected to derive about a third of its electricity from renewable resources by 2050, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration's latest Annual Energy Outlook.
The resolution faces little chance of approval from the GOP-controlled Senate or President Donald Trump.
Senator John Barrasso, Republican-Wyoming, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, called the Green New Deal "a raw deal for the American taxpayer" that would "take our growing economy off the cliff and our nation into bankruptcy."
Even some House Democrats have expressed hesitation on the Green New Deal, largely avoiding mention of the concept at a Wednesday hearing on climate change.
But at the Thursday press briefing, Ocasio-Cortez stressed that Democrats are broadly in favor of the Green New Deal resolution, noting it has more than 60 co-sponsors in the Democratic caucus.