A plan called the Green New Deal seeks to address both economic injustice and climate warming. It urges the use of renewable energy sources, a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, and steps to combat economic inequality like the development of jobs and universal healthcare. The plan has received support from a range of advocacy organizations and individuals, in addition to several members of Congress. It hasn’t been put into practice yet and has received criticism as well.
As a piece of rhetoric, the call for a “Green New Deal” has been an unqualified success, gaining support from the left-leaning portion of the populace. The Green New Deal, which can be broadly interpreted as fiscal stimulus intended to hasten the transition to a renewable economy with a social-egalitarian component, has gained remarkably wide currency over the past 15 years by promising to resolve the perceived conflict between economic and environmental priorities that plagued left-leaning forces in the 1990s and into the new millennium. The Green New Deal, which is frequently contrasted with degrowth, promises a win-win situation: rather than requiring trade-offs or sacrifice, the effort to stabilize the climate can spark a manufacturing boom in clean energy, overhaul infrastructure, create jobs, encourage innovation in green technologies, and bolster “energy security.”
With the Inflation Reduction Act’s passage in August in the United States—the default national context for much green discussion in the Anglosphere, the birthplace of the original New Deal, and the nation with by far the highest carbon emissions per capita of any country with a significant population—inspiring rhetoric finally took on a dubious reality. The original Build Back Better legislation developed by the Biden Administration in 2021 called for spending $3.5 trillion over 10 years on a variety of social programs, including tax credits and grants for municipalities and corporations switching to renewable energy. It also called for a gradual phase-out of fossil fuels in electricity generation, though it was a far cry from the $16.3 trillion Green New Deal proposed by would-be presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in 2019. After last-minute negotiations between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and stubborn West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin—and reportedly an eleventh-hour phone call from Obama’s former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers—whatever was left of this bill by the summer of 2022 had less than one seventh as much authorised spending (around $490 billion), with the money designated for climate change mitigation (). The projected reduction in US greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 2005 levels by 2030 represents a 10% improvement over the country’s pre-IRA trajectory (roughly 30% below 2005 by 2030). However, this was far from the 50% target set by the US in the Paris Climate Accords, let alone Sanders’ proposal of a 70% reduction by 2030, which would have been achieved through fully decarbonizing the transportation and electricity sectors (the two largest contributors to emissions in the US). It is actually debatable whether the IRA qualifies as a “Green New Deal” at all given its drastically reduced scope and the near-total exfoliation of any social-egalitarian component in the legislative wrangling, even though the bill is unmistakably the legislative offspring of Sanders’s climate platform.
Nevertheless, even though Biden’s IRA only amounts to a small down payment on the purchase of a habitable and prosperous world, it amounts to the most significant climate change legislation that the US has yet to enact, as has been widely recognized. The current situation invites a reconsideration of the Green New Deal as an amorphous body of thought and discursive crusade—the origins and evolution of the idea, its rise as a rhetorical phenomenon and popular slogan—and, second, a comparative appraisal of the various GND-affiliated policy proposals and works of political strategy that have emerged in light of the rhetorical dominance of the GND having culminated, for now, in the pinched reality of the IRA. Will the Act revive the good momentum or put it out to pasture?
The Green New Deal first emerged in the Anglo-American liberal thought world of the late Blair-Bush years, when its spokesmen saw the reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as an incentive for American industry and the environmental movement to create a new engine of growth that would correct some of the deindustrializing excesses of the 1990s. Although there were earlier iterations in Germany, the Green New Deal first came to prominence there. Although it was mentioned earlier in a conversation between Larry Elliot, the Guardian’s economics editor, and Colin Hines, the former head of Greenpeace’s International Economics Unit, the phrase “Green New Deal” became widely known in early 2007, when it appeared in a New York Times column by Thomas Friedman. The idea that the GND will “renew America” and “get our groove back with the world” in the face of a growing China was explicit in early visions of the GND and is still heavily evident in Biden’s ire.
A few years later, ecosocialist writers saw the Green New Deal as a potential “wedge” issue or “terrain of struggle” in the hopes that a reformist legislative agenda would pave the way—or at the very least buy time—for a much more extensive decarbonization and public provision process. By the latter part of the 2010s, American democratic-socialist agendas included the Green New Deal as part of a broader left embrace of electoral politics when the possibility of a Sanders candidacy and some left-leaning representation in the US Congress suggested that significant green policies might soon be implemented. The Sunrise Movement, a group of young activists, was founded in 2017. The following year, after the ipcc released a landmark report suggesting that the world economy needed to change at a rate and scale that had “no documented historical precedent,” Sunrise activists worked to elect candidates who supported renewable energy and to defeat those who opposed it.
The young people’s group later adopted the Green New Deal and staged a sit-in outside Nancy Pelosi’s office to call for climate change action. A non-binding congressional resolution was introduced in February 2019 by newly elected Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey, stating that “it is the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal” in order to achieve net-zero global emissions by 2050 through “a fair and just transition for all communities and workers.” The Green New Deal was supported by the majority of Democratic presidential candidates ahead of the 2020 election, including Washington governor Jay Inslee, who made the ecological catastrophe his main campaign topic. Later that year, Bernie Sanders announced his $16.3 trillion climate proposal.