(D-N.Y.) on Thursday introduced a new climate change resolution with aims to bring the progressive Green New Deal to life legislatively and push the U.S. to take a lead role in reducing carbon emissions through the economy.
The proposal, titled “Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal,” has a goal of creating millions of “good, high-wage jobs” by striving for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is introducing a companion proposal in the upper chamber.
The legislation offers a natural transition for Ocasio-Cortez, who before even formally entering office championed the idea of a Green New Deal as the basis for creating a special committee on climate change.
Engaging in a sit-in at Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) office with members of the youth climate advocates the Sunrise Movement, Ocasio-Cortez pushed to make climate change a main focus of the Democratic Party as they took back control of the House.
Her proposed special committee was ultimately rejected by Democratic leaders, who opted instead for a panel on climate crisis that lacks legislative and subpoena power. Pelosi Thursday announced the names of eight members of Congress who will sit on that panel. Ocasio-Cortez is not one of them.
The resolution aims to continue the tenants of that committee, priming congressional leaders to accept the dire climate situation as laid out in this November’s United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that the world has 12 years to reverse emissions trends in order to thwart irreversible global warming.
“Whereas, because the United States has historically been responsible for a disproportionate amount of greenhouse gas emissions, having emitted 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions through 2014, and has a high technological capacity, the United States must take a leading role in reducing emissions through economic transformation,” the resolution reads.
The proposal says that accomplishing the plan would take a 10 year “national mobilization” and would include resilience building, a 100 percent renewable-energy driven power grid, updating “smart” power grids and increasing building energy efficiency. Buried in the resolution is also a commitment that all future infrastructure bills would specifically address climate change.
The text also calls for a long wish list for Ocasio-Cortez, including seeking environmental changes not directly related to climate change such as supporting family farming, guaranteeing universal access to clean drinking water and investments in high-speed railroads.
“Even the solutions that we have considered big and bold are nowhere near the scale of the actual problem that climate change presents to us, to our country, to the world,” Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview on NPR on Thursday.
“This is really about providing justice for communities and just transitions for communities. So, really the heart of the Green New Deal is about social justice.”
In a statement released Thursday, Varshini Pakash, founder and executive director of the Sunrise Movement, said, “Young people put the Green New Deal on the national agenda. The historic support for this resolution, especially among 2020 contenders, shows how far the movement has shifted the political conversation.”
The proposal has been met in some instances with scorn from people on the right, who criticize it as a radical pipe dream rather than an achievable climate goal.
While a number of 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls, from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) to Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), have openly embraced “the concept” of the Green New Deal, they too at times have been reserved in what components of the massive undertaking they are getting behind.
The proposal comes a day after two congressional hearings Wednesday focused on addressing climate change. The hearings in the House Natural Resources and the Energy and Commerce committees were the first on the topic in nine and six years, respectively, and Democratic leadership has vowed to make the issue of curbing greenhouse gas emissions front and center in their new majority.
While many Republicans on the committees said they would try to work with Democrats to find common ground on the issue, at least one lawmaker, Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), called the proposal “radical.”
“We should be open to the fact that wealth transfer schemes suggested in the radical policies like the Green New Deal may not be the best path to community prosperity and preparedness,” Shimkus said.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is also considering a run for the White House, will also back the plan.