The Green New Deal: What It Is and Why It Matters

February 7, 2019, 6:09 PM UTC

Urgency to slow and ultimately stop climate change and its damaging environmental effects has long been a top agenda item for Democrats on Capitol Hill.

Now they have more leverage since becoming the majority party in the House of Representatives and climate change is getting more attention.

This week a resolution calling for a Green New Deal, which includes energizing the U.S. economy, was introduced by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

The plan isn’t legislation, but is intended as a roadmap for Congress to tackle the issue of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting environmental damage.

Here’s what it’s about:

Who Backs It?

Four presidential candidates—Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)—are co-sponsors, according to the Washington Post. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who may also run for president, also backs the plan. A total of nine senators and 60 members of the House so far support the measure.

What Are the Goals?

The main target is to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions within 10 years.

This includes creating 100% renewable energy production, upgrades to infrastructure, and all existing buildings, support for sustainable agriculture, a shift from air travel and gasoline cars to mass transit, and creation of resiliency to climate change-related disasters.

But the plan is even bigger than a carbon-neutral U.S. in a decade. Ocasio-Cortez told NPR that the Green New Deal is about social justice, meaning it would create millions of jobs, as well as provide access to clean water and healthy food for everyone.

How Much Would It Cost?

The plan has no budget, but its goals and programs would likely run into the trillions of dollars. Ocasio-Cortez told NPR she envisions a combination of taxation and deficit spending to enable the plan, with economic growth justifying the expenditure.

“For every one dollar invested in infrastructure we get six dollars back,” she said, also noting when the GOP-controlled Congress passed the massive tax cut in 2017 and claimed future economic growth, “they had no evidence to say that these things were going to happen.”

What Would the Plan Actually Do?

As a non-binding resolution, the Green New Deal does nothing in itself—and would probably not pass the Republican-controlled Senate or get a signature from Donald Trump. Even if it did pass, there are no specific programs described.