What is the Green New Deal?
In February 2019, Representative Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Markey (D-MA) introduced the Green New Deal, a resolution proposing to increase renewable power and public transportation, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through programs which simultaneously benefit those in need, including low-income and people of color communities.
Why is California vital to the Green New Deal’s success?
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, as of 2014 California emits the second highest amount of carbon dioxide in the country. California, as the most populous state, contains one eighth of the US population. Given this and the state’s value to the national economy, California has an important and well-placed opportunity to push for the implementation of a national Green New Deal.
A powerful way to lead the change is for California to implement its own statewide Green New Deal. This would model what a successful Green New Deal looks like, assuaging the fears of hesitant policy-makers who say it can’t be done. It would also make a good-sized dent in US emissions and improve the situation for California’s “frontline and vulnerable communities” (populations prioritized in the national Green New Deal bill).
What would a California Green New Deal look like?
Surprisingly to some, California is already operating a small-scale Green New Deal-like program. California Climate Investments, an initiative launched in 2012, uses revenue from the Cap-and-Trade program to provide money to the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. This fund uses this money for projects “reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment—particularly in disadvantaged communities.” This sounds a lot like the national Deal, especially in its notable bringing together of environmentalism, the economy, and social justice.
However, for California to pave the way, a larger-scale program is needed. Assembly Bill 1276 was introduced by California Assemblyman Rob Bonta in February 2019 and calls specifically for the implementation of a statewide Green New Deal. Goals of the bill include:
- Greening state infrastructure such as electrical, transportation, and water needs
- Funding draw-down of greenhouse gases
- Providing education and opportunities to all people so they can “be full and equal participants in the transition, including through a job guarantee program to ensure a living wage job to every person who wants one”
AB 1276 has become a two year bill and won’t be considered during this legislative session. Whether it is through this bill or a future one, and whether the motivation comes from national or state interest, implementing a California Green New Deal is both vital and possible. We are a unique and beautiful state, but with that comes both a danger and a responsibility. We are already experiencing drastic weather conditions which are predicted to worsen in the coming years. Let this urgency drive us not to despair but to action.
-Amy Gruen, contributing writer for 350 Bay Area