Spaceship Earth: The Green New Deal

As the first Democratic primaries grow nearer and as humanity’s window to act on climate change closes, it becomes increasingly important that you know the various candidates’ different positions on specific climate change issues. In the next few editions of this column, different aspects of popular candidates’ platforms will be analyzed from the economic angle to the social and to the intersections in between. This week we will focus on several politicians’ stances towards the Green New Deal, which has partial origins here in Massachusetts with Senator Ed Markey. The Green New Deal is a plan to tackle various different aspects of the impacts of climate change by not only creating millions of well-paying jobs, but also addressing historical and present injustice.

Starting off with the first presidential candidate to back the Green New Deal, Bernie Sanders’ climate plan uses the ideals of the Green New Deal as heavy inspiration. His plan would create 20 million jobs (unionized, of course) which will be set to work on generating 100% renewable energy by 2030 along with a smart grid to improve energy efficiency. In the fight for climate justice, Bernie’s take on the Green New Deal also recognizes that communities of color are often the frontline communities dealing with some of the harshest effects of climate change. While FDR’s New Deal often had racial exceptions that prevented people of color from accessing many benefits, Bernie’s plan is explicit in guaranteeing that marginalized communities and communities of color will be actively included and have access to the resources that they need. Overall, Bernie plans to invest $16.3 trillion into his Green New Deal, which will be paid for in several ways including: taxing and litigating against fossil fuel companies, reducing military spending on maintaining global oil dependence and taxes on extremely wealthy corporations and individuals.

Elizabeth Warren’s plan is more spread out, and spends a lesser $5 trillion in various sectors with a focus on green manufacturing. Her plans often mention the need for American supremacy in the new market of green energy. In fact, one of her largest allotments of funds is $1.5 trillion on purchasing green technology for federal and state use and for exports creating an estimated 1 million jobs. While this has domestic appeal, we cannot lose sight of the fact that climate change is a global struggle that needs global efforts and unity to overcome. Warren tries to supplement this with $100 billion devoted to a Marshall-esque plan giving discounts to countries impacted by climate change, but this pales when compared to Bernie’s $200 billion commitment to global support funding for reducing carbon emissions abroad. Warren also recognizes the need to center communities of color and indigenous people and works to tie these communities into her plans where she can. Overall, Warren’s focus seems to be on improving the U.S.’s ability to use the market to find solutions to climate change by spending money on American green products — which will largely be generated through a tax on large corporations.

It is easy to assume those fighting for the Democratic nominee will have similar plans, but when you dive a little deeper there are key differences that voters should keep in mind. That said, at the end of the day — no matter who we elect — it will take collective action to enable our policy makers’ plans to become a reality.