Green New Deal (and the IRA and a Just Transition)
The Green New Deal (GND) combines the goal of a rapid transition (e.g., within 10 years) to renewable energy and zero greenhouse gas emissions with the guarantee of a good quality of life for everyone, including an Economic Bill of rights addressing living wage jobs, housing, universal health care and education (including college).
Over time, the Green New Deal has become a branding tool for various climate proposals, building on the theme that investing in climate actions is also a job creation strategy.
While support for the GND has risen and fallen over time, with the GOP increasingly attacking it as socialist, in 2021 the GND remained highly popular, enjoying a 31-percentage-point margin (60 to 29%), including nearly all Democrats, and over one-third of Republicans.
The GND first garnered widespread attention in the U.S. in late 2018 after newly elected progressive Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (aka AOC), having shockingly defeated the third ranking democrat in the House in a democratic party primary in NYC, joined a sit-in event organized by the Sunrise Movement in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office at the Capitol even before she was sworn in.
Howie Hawkins in his 2010 Green Party gubernatorial campaign in New York is seen as the first U.S. politician to campaign for a Green New Deal. Hawkins had modified a GND proposal put forth by the Green Party and other environmental groups in 2008 in the UK and Europe in response to the global financial meltdown. That proposal also included significant reforms to the financial system.
Columnist Thomas Friedman in 2007 wrote a column in the NY Times calling for a Green New Deal,  a theme he said that Barack Obama later included in his 2008 presidential campaign. Certainly, the idea that investment in renewable energy and other environmental measures was a job creation strategy was one that many groups (such as the Blue-Green Alliance) had been promoting for years.
AOC teamed up with Senator Markey to introduce a GND resolution in 2019 that called “on the federal government to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create high-paying jobs, ensure that clean air, clean water, and healthy food are basic human rights, and end all forms of oppression. To achieve those goals, the plan calls for the launch of a ‘10-year mobilization’ to reduce carbon emissions in the United States.” AOC’s initial proposal had been to have a two-year process to draft a plan to bring back for congressional action. Despite considerable support among activists and scores of Congressmembers, the idea was never brought up for a vote.
The Democratic Party has never fully embraced the Green New Deal, highlighting the divisions between its liberal and moderate wings. It has never made it into the party’s national platform. Some shied away from being labeled socialists, a brand that younger more progressive Democrats emerging out of the two Bernie Sanders presidential campaigns were more likely to embrace. Others argued that they were just being pragmatic, saying that a GND could never garner the Republican support needed to be passed by Congress. Many quickly retreated in face of the attacks from the GOP.
But even the more liberal wing of the party, including AOC’s GND, shied away from explicitly calling for a halt to any new fossil fuel infrastructure, including fracking for natural gas, and were reluctant to support calls to cut the military budget to fund the GND. There was also division over issues such as a carbon tax, the role of nuclear, public power, and the timeline (2030 vs. 2050 for zero emissions). Many labor unions were also skeptical of the GND, especially worried that despite the central role living wage job creation had in the GND, that not enough jobs would be created and that they would pay less than the good paying jobs they had in the fossil fuel industry. 
One approach that AOC has taken is to introduce GND proposals on particular issues. She introduced the GND Public Housing proposal with Senator Sanders, which would “invests up to $172 billion over ten years in sustainable retrofits, dramatically improving living conditions for nearly two million people living in over 950,000 public housing homes. This legislation reduces public housing water bills by up to 30 percent per year, or $97 million, and energy bills by up to 70 percent per year, or $613 million. The bill also creates up to 240,000 good-paying, union jobs per year.”
Cong. Bowman of NY, along with thirty-five co-sponsors (including AOC), introduced in July 2021 a Green New Deal for Schools. The proposal “which aims to invest $1.43 trillion over 10 years in public schools and infrastructure to combat climate change — would make a transformative investment in public school infrastructure by upgrading every public school building in the country, addressing historical harms and inequities by focusing support on high-need schools, and hiring and training hundreds of thousands of additional educators and support staff. If enacted, the legislation would fund 1.3 million jobs per year and eliminate seventy-eight million metric tons of CO2 annually, the equivalent of taking seventeen million cars off the road.”
Local governments have taken to packaging their climate proposals as a Green New Deal, even though they are often narrower than a comprehensive bold package of climate action plus an economic bill of rights. Michelle Wu, who became Mayor of Boston in 2022, campaigned on a comprehensive GND platform. The City of Ithaca NY has launched a GND, including a $100 million plan to decarbonize all buildings and residences in the city. Climate activists and elected officials in NYC packaged their law to require various climate measures including energy retrofits to large buildings (over three decades) as a GND.
A network of elected officials in dozens of countries launched in July 2021 a Global Alliance for a Green New Deal.
As the COVID crisis caused a major drop in the world’s economy, there was a lot of discussion in the United States, Europe and South Korea that governments would invest in a Green New Deal-based economy recovery while also addressing the climate crisis. There also seemed to be a recognition that responding to such crisis required unprecedented governmental action that embraced all its members.
Unfortunately, those proposals proved illusory, a major missed opportunity. The G7 countries in particular gave billions of dollars more into fossil fuels than they into clean energy since the Covid-19 pandemic, despite their promises of a green recovery.
A Just Transition
While a Just Transition is a central part of the GND, over time many have raised the need for a Just Transition as a separate climate demand.
A Just Transition has two major components: the creation of a new clean energy world where the needs of everyone are met, starting with an Economic bill of rights that guarantees a living wage job and a minimum income, universal (single payer) health care, education including college, and housing; and, protection for existing workers and communities dependent on fossil fuels (and nuclear), with priorities giving to displaced workers in obtaining new jobs and training. The original Green Party call for a GND also included guaranteeing wages and tax payments for at least five years for displaced energy workers Such guarantees have gotten vaguer in newer versions supported by the Democrats, though they do highlight issues such as prevailing wages in jobs funded by the GND.
While the concept of a Just Transition is widely embraced even by some who otherwise resist the GND and climate action, particularly the call to protect existing fossil fuel workers, there is far less commitment by elected officials or industry to raising the funds needed to make it occur.
One criticism of the earliest versions of the GND is that they were not developed with direct major input from EJ and labor communities.
Various calls for a just transition existed prior to the emergence of the GND. The Climate Justice Alliance notes that “Just Transition strategies were first forged by labor unions and environmental justice groups, rooted in low-income communities of color, who saw the need to phase out the industries that were harming workers, community health and the planet; and at the same time provide just pathways for workers to transition to other jobs… Members of the Climate Justice Alliance…have adapted the definition of Just Transition to represent a host of strategies to transition whole communities to build thriving economies that provide dignified, productive and ecologically sustainable livelihoods; democratic governance and ecological resilience.”
The Paris climate Agreement requires national plans on climate change to include just transition measures with a centrality of decent work and quality jobs.
The International Trade Union Conference is the global voice of unions. Its demands for a Just Transition include: “respect the contribution that workers in fossil fuel industries have made to today’s prosperity and provide income support, retraining, redeployment and secure pensions for older workers; recognize that investing in community renewal is critical to gain the hope and trust of affected regions; involve workers in planning for clean mega cities; ensure investment in the jobs and decent work vital to both adaptation and mitigation; guarantee essential social protection and human rights; be backed up by a just transition fund in every nation; and, be based on social dialogue with all relevant parties, collective bargaining with workers and their unions and the monitoring of agreements which are public and legally enforceable. Managed well, transitions to environmentally and socially sustainable economies can become a strong driver of job creation, job upgrading, social justice and poverty eradication.” 
A Just Transition requires an inclusive process. The World Economic Forum notes that “creating a clean energy world requires a large-scale transformation of economies and businesses, affecting labor, consumers, and local populations. Ignoring impacts poses serious risks also for governments and companies, as it can result in backlash blocking climate action. Public dialogue and stakeholder engagement can make ambitious climate action possible by mobilizing broad-based support, while designing measures that respond to the needs on the ground.” 
For many liberal democrats, including in Congress, support for a GND morphed into a call for a THRIVE agenda. Rather than advancing specific funding levels or policy directives, it focused more on the goals of environmental justice and a Just Transition. The THRIVE agenda was first introduced as a Congressional resolution of 2019, garnering the co-sponsorship of many members including the soon-to-become Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of NY.
While THRIVE sought to broaden the base of support among EJ and Labor groups, one criticism of such an approach was that it downplayed the need for radical climate action to avoid climate collapse. While it is imperative that any climate action targets jobs, investments and benefits to disadvantaged communities and displaced workers, someone needs to be driving the underlying actions since elected officials do not do it on their own, especially in face of opposition from the fossil fuel industry and their various enablers (e.g., the financial community). Unfortunately, while the calls for investment in EJ communities has won strong support among Democrats, actual progress has remained limited.
Many DC-oriented climate groups hoped that the THRIVE agenda would become the basis for newly elected President Biden’s climate proposals. That did not occur.
The Sierra Club and others put out a report in 2021 documenting the need for $1 trillion a year for a decade in investments in climate action, which would create fifteen million good-paying news jobs.  Investment would go to “ecosystem restoration, clean manufacturing, regenerative agriculture, upgrading infrastructure and buildings, clean energy and transportation, public services, and care for children and the elderly. At least 50% of these investments must go to frontline communities that have endured decades of underinvestment. All of the investments must include strong wage and benefit guarantees and access to unions, and equitable hiring that favors women and Black, Indigenous, and people of color.” 
Build Back Better to the Inflation Reduction Act – Most Climate Funding Ever, Way Too little With False Solutions
The election of Joe Biden as president of the U.S. was widely viewed as an opportunity to shift away from the climate denial of the Trump administration, even though Biden had among the weakest climate proposals of the Democrats in the primary. Still, climate activists were optimistic after Biden signaled early on that climate would be a major concern with his administration, and the new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stressed the need for bold action.
President Biden’s Build Back Better proposal early in 2021 sought more than $4 trillion worth of infrastructure and economic proposals over ten years. Progressive Democrats sought to bump that up to $6 trillion.
But with the Democrats and Republicans evenly split in the Senate, action would only come through a limited process known as budget reconciliation, which required fifty votes (plus the Vice-President acting as the tiebreaker) rather than the normal sixty, requiring all Democrats to vote in the affirmative. The main problem was Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a conservative Democrat with deep ties (and personal investment) in the coal industry  who also objected to various other investments (e.g., childcare) and raised concerns about increasing the deficit.
After a year and half of tortoise negotiations, with the package getting ever smaller, with a slimmed down $550 billion over ten years infrastructure package being passed separately, with the climate deal being given up for dead several times, Manchin unexpectedly in August 2022 agreed to the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
Manchin’s support for the deal was contingent on a separate federal permitting reform agreement that the Democrats would unveil in the fall and include in a government funding package. This includes expediting the 303-mile natural gas Mountain Valley pipeline running through West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. While opposition from the climate movement caused Manchin and the Democrats to shelve the side deal in late September, it may come back.
While the IRA was the biggest piece of ‘climate legislation’ ever passed in the U.S., by a wide margin, “it is still a far cry from the scale of public investment needed to contend with the magnitude of the crisis we face, and from what’s needed for a truly just and equitable transition to a world beyond fossil fuels.” 
The IRA fell far short of Biden’s and Schumer’s initial proposals, only investing $36.9 million annually over ten years in climate and energy provisions. Overall spending is one-tenth of what Senator Schumer had submitted in August 2021, which was itself far less than what Biden had initially discussed.
Besides the low level of funding and slow timelines, the bill mainly “tweaks the market,” relying on tax incentives to the private sector and hedge fund investors rather than public ownership or democratic control and planning for the energy sector.
The bill also provides continued support to fossil fuels and other false climate solutions. As Food and Water Watch noted, also addressing the side deal with, “creating new wind and solar tax credits while giving fossil fuel polluters a green light is the ultimate devil’s bargain.” The Center for Biological Diversity said, “the legislation all but ensures that the fossil fuel industry will maintain current oil and gas production levels without any change for the next decade”, and “This is a climate suicide pact.” 
The IRA provides a production credit for nuclear energy and blue hydrogen and extends income and excise tax credits for biodiesel, renewable diesel, and alternative fuels. The legislation would also require oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, reinstate an illegal 2021 Gulf lease sale, and lock in oil and gas lease sales as a precondition for the approval of federal renewable energy projects.
The side deal that Machin sought would require a constantly updated list of twenty-five projects that will be placed on the fast track, limiting public input and necessary environmental review. At least five of the priority items “shall be projects to produce, process, transport, or store fossil fuel products, or biofuels, including projects to export or import those products.” Two of the priority projects should be devoted to the “capture, transport, or store carbon dioxide.” It allows funding for projects that increase the extraction of oil. The fossil fuel prioritization continues well past 2030, requiring at least three projects to be fossil fuel oriented while allowing greater discretion to add more to the priority list.
EJ groups such as the Climate Justice Alliance  and the Indigenous Environmental Network  opposed the IRA. The groups pointed out the bill analysis from the Joint Committee on Taxation shows that the proposed funding for EJ measures is lower than the sponsors claim and that the more lucrative EJ provisions sunset by 2028. Groups also question whether a number of proposed projects actually qualify as EJ. It also fails to include funding for the U.S.’s climate reparations to the developing world that are bearing the brunt of climate change driven by the U.S. and the other industrial polluting nations.
The Original Green New Deal
Since the Green Party initiated the call for a Green New Deal in the U.S. in 2010 (which I helped write) and since the party still embraces it while the Democrats remain divided over it, this book uses the current GP version as the starting point to explain the Green New Deal. It then examines the GND proposals from Cong. Ocasio-Cortez.
In his 2020 Presidential campaign for the Green Party, Hawkins outlined a more detailed analysis of the GND including an annual $2.7 trillion investment in climate action and $1.4 trillion for the economic bill of rights implementation.
The Sunrise Movement has published a book on the GND.  Many of the best funded climate groups with staff in the US are part of the Green New Deal Network, though the have campaigned more recently for the THRIVE Agenda and implementation of Biden’s Justice40 EJ initiative.
There are also numerous books on the GND, starting with Naomi Klein’s On Fire.
The ecosocialist perspective of the Green Party is not yet widely embraced by the mainstream climate movement in the U.S. However, Pope Francis, the IPCC and Greta Thunberg have all pointed out that since the capitalist system and its focus on profit maximization is a root cause of the climate crisis, a solution requires replacing capitalism as the dominant economic approach.
Ecosocialism proposes an economy based on maximizing the public good under democratic control and community ownership. “It combines aspects of socialism with that of green politics, ecology, and anti-globalization. Ecosocialism believes that the capitalist economic system is fundamentally incompatible with the ecological and social requirements of sustainability. Giving economic priority to the fulfillment of human needs while staying within ecological limits, as sustainable development demands, is in conflict with the profit-driven focus of capitalism. Market-based solutions to ecological crises are rejected as technical tweaks that do not confront capitalism’s structural failures.”
The GP Ecosocialist Green New Deal
The Green New Deal will convert the old, gray economy into a new, sustainable economy that is environmentally sound, economically viable and socially responsible. It seeks to solve the climate crisis by combining quick action to get to zero greenhouse gas emissions and 100% renewable energy by 2030 along with an “Economic Bill of Rights” – the right to single-payer healthcare, a guaranteed job at a living wage, affordable housing, and free college education.
The Greens call for a World War II-scale mobilization to carry through this emergency climate program. During World War II, the federal government took over a quarter of U.S. manufacturing capacity in order to defeat the fascist powers.
The Greens call for social ownership and democratic planning in order to make a rapid coordinated transition to 100% clean energy and zero to negative greenhouse gas emissions. The Green Economy Reconstruction Program will socialize key productive sectors, notably energy production, power distribution, broadband, railroads, and automobiles, a greatly expanded public housing sector, and a domestic manufacturing sector to be rebuilt on an ecological basis of clean power and zero waste. It will provide tens of millions of high-quality jobs, virtually eliminating unemployment, underemployment, and poverty incomes.
The Greens call for a halt to all new fossil fuel infrastructure (fracking, oil and gas pipelines, gas-fired power plants). Existing infrastructure is more than sufficient to deliver fossil fuels during the transition as they are phased out. The Greens also call for a halt to so-called “low carbon” dirty energy industries and for their rapid phase out, including nuclear power; fossil fuel carbon capture and sequestration; waste incinerators; large-scale biofuels such as factory farm biogas, landfill gas, and wood pellets; hydrogen from fossil fuels; large-scale ecosystem-altering hydropower; and market-based accounting systems like carbon offsets.
Clean energy includes solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, wave, and small-scale hydro. Clean energy does not include natural gas, biomass, nuclear power, or the oxymoron “clean coal.”
The national Green Party platform calls for the following:
Guarantees that workers and communities affected by the transition to clean energy are kept whole during the transition. The Just Transition program will guarantee workers up to five years of their current wages and benefits, or a good pension for early retirement for those who choose it or can no longer work. Communities that lose tax revenues due to the closure of power and manufacturing plants will receive equal revenues until new Green New Deal plants make up for the loss.
Public Energy System
Enact energy democracy based on public, community, and worker ownership of our energy system. Treat energy as a human right. Socialize all power generation and distribution utilities and private energy corporations into a public energy system in order to rapidly implement the transition to 100% clean energy generation and distribution.
The public energy system will operate at cost for public benefit rather than cost plus profit for owners. For-profit private utilities will not build the smart grid necessary to incorporate the distributed nature of renewables and to implement energy conservation and efficiency in energy use because the private utilities are more profitable continuing to use the servo-mechanical grid based on centralized power plants. The public energy system should be governed from the bottom-up by a decentralized federation of elected local/regional public energy districts that in turn elect state and federal boards for state and federal coordination.
Socialize the railroad and automotive industries into a public transportation system to rapidly electrify transportation powered by clean energy sources. The public transportation system should be governed from the bottom up by a decentralized federation of elected local/regional public transportation districts that in turn elect state and federal boards for state and federal coordination. Intra-city mass transit and inter-city freight rails and high-speed passenger rails should move energy- and resource-inefficient personal vehicles and freight trucking on roads onto electrified passenger and freight rails. Urban planning should encourage walkable and bikeable neighborhoods through pedestrian and bike lanes on roads and rezoning single-family residence zones into mixed use zones.
Build a public manufacturing system that can rebuild manufacturing in the U.S. on the basis of clean energy and zero waste. The public manufacturing system will prioritize developing publicly owned companies for clean energy and zero waste in key industries that must be transformed to reach 100% clean energy, such as zero-carbon cement manufacturing and replacing coke ovens with electric arc furnaces and green-hydrogen blast furnaces for steel production. The machine tool industry, which builds factory equipment, must be rebuilt in order to build clean-energy, zero-waste manufacturing equipment for all sectors. Policy should require that manufacturing products are returned to their manufacturer when used up to be reused and recycled into the next generation of products.
The Green New Deal for agriculture will replace pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and large-scale industrialized factory farms based on monocropping and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations with regenerative organic agroecology by working farmers on small and medium sized farms. It will ban absentee and corporate ownership of farms and ranches. It will subsidize the transition of farmers to organic production. It will provide community-owned farmland to enable farmers to stay on farms where land prices rise too high. It will provide parity pricing and supply management to ensure all working farmers have a decent income above their costs of production.
Public Housing and Walkable Communities
Expand public housing until every person has an affordable housing option. Rehabilitate existing and build new public housing that is powered by clean energy. Public housing will be open to anyone so that low-income, working class, and middle-class people live in the same developments and reduce race and class segregation. Priority placement should be given to low-income people as the expanded public housing sector is built out in order to house the homeless as soon as possible.
Paying for the GND
The Ecosocialist Green New Deal proposes to pay for its program from a variety of short-term and long-term sources, including:
Progressive Tax Reform—Close tax havens and implement (more) progressive taxes on wealth, estates, personal income, corporate income, and financial transactions.
Ecological Taxes—The major point of ecological taxes is not to raise revenues but reduce pollution and resource destruction. If they are successful, they eliminate the source of their revenue. As such, they should not be considered long term revenues sources but can be useful for shorter term financing of environmental goals.
Ecological taxes are scarcity rents on the use of natural resources, such as the atmosphere, land, fossil fuels, and mineral resources. While ecological taxes are not a substitute for social ownership and economic planning in a green energy transition, they can be part of economic planning to disincentivize fossil fuel use and natural resource extraction, dumping, and depletion.
Peace Conversion—Deep cuts in the US military budget on the order of 50% to 75% and reallocating the savings into the Ecosocialist Green New Deal.
Public Money—The Greens favor Monetary Reform based on the creation of debt-free public money by a Monetary Authority in the Treasury Department and spending that money into the economy through the federal budget, including the budget for the Ecosocialist Green New Deal.
AOC – Markey Congressional GND Resolution 
In February 2019, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) and Senator Edward Markey introduced a Congressional resolution transitioning the United States to 100% renewable, zero-emission energy sources, along with investment in electric cars and high-speed rail systems and implementing the “social cost of carbon” within 10 years. The GND also aimed to address poverty by aiming much of the improvements in “frontline and vulnerable communities” which include the poor and disadvantaged people. It had strong labor and environmental justice goals.
The resolution included calls for universal health care, increased minimum wages, and preventing monopolies. The resolution did call for the government to receive some equity ownership in exchange for investments in companies.
AOC’s website explains that “The Green New Deal is a jobs and justice-centered plan to decarbonize the U.S. economy within ten years. It is one of the only plans put forward which is actually in line with scientific consensus and the United Nations’ IPCC Report. The Green New Deal also focuses on creating the maximum amount of prosperity for working people and marginalized communities in the process.”
The congressional resolution called for a “10-year national mobilization” whose primary goals would be:
- “Guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States.”
- “Providing all people of the United States with – (i) high-quality health care; (ii) affordable, safe, and adequate housing; (iii) economic security; and (iv) access to clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and nature.”
- “Providing resources, training, and high-quality education, including higher education, to all people.”
- “Meeting 100 percent of the power demand through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources.”
- “Repairing and upgrading the infrastructure in the United States, including by eliminating pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as much as technologically feasible.”
- “Building or upgrading to energy-efficient, distributed, and ‘smart’ power grids, and working to ensure affordable access to electricity.”
- “Upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximal energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability, including through electrification.”
- “Overhauling transportation systems in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment in – (i) zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing; (ii) clean, affordable, and accessible public transportation; and (iii) high-speed rail.”
- “Spurring massive growth in clean manufacturing in the United States and removing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing and industry as much as is technologically feasible.
- “Working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible.” 
 https://www.iisd.org/sustainable-recovery/news/the-eu-green-deal-at-the-heart-of-europes-recovery-post-covid19/; https://climatechangenews.com/2020/04/09/european-green-deal-must-central-resilient-recovery-covid-19/
 https://insideclimatenews.org/news/16012020/2020-election-debate-climate-change-iowa-caucuses-sanders-warren-buttigieg-biden/; https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/jay-inslee-tops-greenpeace-climate-grades-joe-biden-gets-d-n1011996
 https://cnsnews.com/article/washington/cnsnewscom-staff/chuck-schumer-we-need-bold-climate-action-now; https://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow/watch/schumer-calls-on-president-biden-to-declare-climate-emergency-100012613548