Our climate (and humanity) has an urgent need for action when it comes to renewable energy. It’s heartening to see forward movement around the concept of a Green New Deal: A resolution just introduced by Senator Edward Markey and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez advances the debate and contains a lot of good elements, but there’s a major omission that caught our experts’ attention — there is no mention of curbing fossil fuels.
I asked one of our top organizing experts and climate change fighters, Mark Schlosberg, to tell me his thoughts about this first draft of a Green New Deal that was released this week. Here were his top takeaways:
“Green New Deal” is a bold and transformative approach, not just a single resolution.
What does the term “Green New Deal” mean in the broader context?
Mark: Over the last few years, we’ve seen the direct impacts of climate change unfolding in real time – hurricanes, fires, drought, mudslides, and other supercharged disasters are having a tremendous impact in the United States and across the globe, and it’s only just beginning. Science tells us that unless we make a rapid transition away from fossil fuels and other carbon intensive practices like factory farms, we are not going to be able to avoid out of control warming. The effects for people and all living things on the planet will be disastrous.
We only have a small window – a little more than a decade – to make this transition and it is not going to be easy. What is required is the same scale as the national response to the great depression and the mobilization for World War II. We need to advance bold and ambitious policy proposals and organize to make them happen.
Like those efforts, a Green New Deal is a bold concept that has captured the imagination of many. It follows previous legislation like the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act from last Congress, which was sponsored by 47 representatives and coupled a quick, fair and just transition to 100% renewable energy with a moratorium on expansion of fossil fuels. It has elevated the conversation on climate on the national stage and many political leaders have expressed support for this concept. Sen. Markey and Rep.Ocasio-Cortez have introduced a resolution calling for a Green New Deal. We support the scale of the transformation envisioned by the resolution, but while we fully support its language talking about jobs, investments, and the scale of the change needed, its failure to directly address fossil fuels is a significant omission.
Last month over 600 organizations joined together to lay out the basic elements for any national climate legislation. Among other things, for a Green New Deal to be effective in addressing climate change, it must halt the expansion of fossil fuels immediately, ensure that the transition to 100% renewable energy happens by 2035 at the latest, exclude dirty energy sources like nuclear power, and provide for a real and meaningful transition for impacted workers. It must have justice at its center, and lift up and prioritize communities most affected by climate change.
Building renewable energy without phasing out fossil fuels is only doing half of the job
Food & Water Watch has been a major player in banning fracking in states like New York, Maryland, and hopefully soon, Florida. If a Green New Deal proposal doesn't ban fracking nationwide, does it go far enough?
Mark: While it is important to build out renewable energy as rapidly as possible, that alone is not enough. We need to immediately halt the expansion of fossil fuels and related infrastructure. In his State of the Union speech, Trump bragged about the United States being the top producer of oil and gas. We need to flip the switch on this immediately: we need to ban fracking and new drilling on federal lands, and stop the expansion of new pipelines, export facilities, fossil fuel power plants and other infrastructure because if we don’t, it will lock us into decades of fossil fuel-based energy production. We simply can’t allow it to continue if we’re going to make this pivot in time — and we need those who are with us to add their support.
Progressives must support a strengthened Green New Deal that includes the halt of fossil fuel expansion
This week is a Week of Action for environmental groups and allies. What kinds of actions are being hosted by Food & Water Action?
Mark: Across the country, Food & Water Action is joining with allies for rallies, petition deliveries, and meetings with congressional offices urging them to support a Green New Deal that will halt the expansion of fossil fuels, move the country to 100% renewable energy by 2035 or sooner, providing for a robust, fair, and just transition for workers and impacted communities. We think it’s important to build consensus for this across the country, and to provide opportunities for everyday people to show their support for a new future free of fossil fuels. Will you join us in supporting a stronger Green New Deal that phases out fossil fuels?