Democrats launched a sweeping plan on Thursday to transform the US economy to combat climate change and create thousands of jobs in renewable energy, signaling its likely elevation as a central campaign issue in 2020 despite US President Donald Trump’s failure to mention climate change in his State of the Union address.
At least six senators running for president or considering White House bids backed the Green New Deal put forth by freshman Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and veteran Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts. The nonbinding resolution calls for a “10-year national mobilization” on the scale of the original New Deal to shift the economy away from fossil fuels such as oil and coal and replace them with renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. It sets a goal to meet “100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable and zero-emission energy sources,” including nuclear power.
“Our energy future will not be found in the dark of a mine but in the light of the sun,” Markey said at a Capitol news conference.
The plan goes far beyond energy to urge national healthcare coverage and job guarantees, as well as high-quality education and affordable housing. The resolution urges elimination of fossil fuels pollution and greenhouse gas emissions “as much as technologically feasible” in a range of economic sectors and calls for “upgrading all existing buildings in the United States” to be energy-efficient.
Markey predicted more Democrats would sign on as the plan gets better known and said some Republicans may back it. More than 80 percent of registered voters supported the concept of a Green New Deal in a December poll by Yale and George Mason universities.
“This is now a voting issue across the country,” Markey said. “The green generation has risen up and they are saying they want this issue solved” as one of the top two or three issues in the 2020 election. A coalition of labor, economic justice, racial justice, indigenous, and environmental organizations immediately announced their support.
While setting lofty goals, the plan does not explicitly call for eliminating the use of fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas, a nod to pragmatism that may disappoint some of Ocasio-Cortez’s strongest backers.
Even so, the Green New Deal is more ambitious than the Clean Power Plan proposed by former US president Barack Obama to impose emissions limits on coal-fired power plants. Trump, who has expressed doubts about climate change, scrapped Obama’s plan as a job killer.
While Democrats did not specify a price tag, some Republicans predict it would cost in the trillions of dollars. GOP lawmakers denounced the plan as a radical proposal that would drive the economy off a cliff and lead to a huge tax increase.
“The Green New Deal is a raw deal for the American taxpayer,” said Senator John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican and chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Barrasso called the plan “a socialist manifesto that lays out a laundry list of government giveaways, including guaranteed food, housing, college and economic security even for those who refuse to work.”
Ocasio-Cortez said the plan’s scope was its strength, saying “small, incremental policy solutions are not enough” to repel climate change, which she called an “existential threat” to the planet. Far from overreach, the plan addresses a sense of growing frustration by young people and others who “don’t feel we’re being ambitious enough” to address a potentially cataclysmic danger, she said.