“Climate change is a global emergency. The Amazon rainforest is burning, Greenland’s ice shelf is melting, and the Arctic is on fire,” begins Senator Bernie Sanders’s Green New Deal to confront the increasingly imminent effects of climate change. Released on Thursday, this plan is both the most aggressive and most capital-intensive proposal to tackle climate change proposed by a 2020 Presidential Candidate to date. Bernie’s Green New Deal calls for $16.3 trillion in spending to accomplish three overarching goals.
All electricity from sustainable sources by 2030
The first objective of Mr. Sanders’s Green New Deal is to obtain all energy for electricity and transportation from renewable sources by the year 2030. An extension of this goal is to fully decarbonize the economy by 2050. This agrees with the recommended date suggested by the United Nations to reach net-zero carbon emissions.
Mr. Sanders also argues that he can create jobs and lower the unemployment rate during this transformation. Notable spending proposed under this goal include $1.52 trillion on renewable energy, $852 billion to increase energy storage capacity and $2.18 trillion to weatherize homes.
The plan also includes a condemnation of “false solutions like nuclear, geoengineering, carbon capture and sequestration, or trash incinerators.” Mr. Sanders instead endorses wind, solar, and geothermal energy, and efficient storage of energy obtained from these sources.
Standing up to fossil fuel corporations
Mr. Sanders, in his stance on climate change, places a lot of stress on the fossil fuel industries themselves. Simultaneously, he promises jobs in building more sustainable energy infrastructure to those currently employed by fossil fuel companies.
Included in this crackdown on fossil fuel corporations are stricter limits on where oil drilling, coal mining, and fracking are allowed, along with bans on imports and exports of fossil fuels. Mr. Sanders also mentions stricter enforcement of pollution penalties from the Clean Air Act.
Addressing unfairly disproportionate effects of climate change and pollution
In the last and most detailed portion of the Bernie Sander’s Green New Deal, the senator focuses on “laying down a social safety net to ensure that no one is left behind”, particularly in the first two years of action. This includes expanding programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, that ensure everyone has access to adequate food.
Major spending under this objective includes $1.3 trillion to “ensure a fair transition for energy workers.” An additional $488 billion would be put towards cleaning up pollution from fossil fuel, chemical, and mining industries, and $500 billion to ensure fair access to food in the face of possible rising energy costs. Finally, the Sanders plan includes a proposed $410 billion to make current farming practices more sustainable.
How will the Sanders administration fund this Green New Deal?
Sources of funding for the projects proposed are referenced in the plan. However, some criticize Mr. Sanders as being vague in this area. He states that he will raise taxes on fossil fuel companies, and income generated through investments in them. The Sanders administration would end subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.
According to a New York Times article on the proposed plan, other sources mentioned by Bernie Sanders’s Green New Deal include 1.2 trillion from “scaling back military spending on the global oil supply,”. New jobs in the renewable energy industry beyond could generate another 2.3 trillion in income tax.
Beyond initial funding for the projects proposed, Mr. Sanders emphasizes that this plan would theoretically pay for itself over 15 years. He also juxtaposes the cost of his plan with an estimated economic loss of $34.5 trillion by the end of the century due to climate change without action against it. And the value of the huge amount of lives lost due to increasing pollution, natural disasters, and other crises would be incalculable.
How does Bernie’s Green New Deal compare to other proposals in the field?
Bernie Sanders’s Green New Deal plan is, thus far, the most expensive of proposed plans by any 2020 presidential candidate. It is also the most assertive plan that a candidate has released to confront and stop climate change.
Several Democratic Candidates have released plans with steps they would take if elected. Senator Elizabeth Warren has said that she would create a new Department of Economic Development. Additionally, her plan includes $2 trillion in spending to promote growth and job creation in “climate-friendly industries”, calling one of the themes of her campaign “economic patriotism.” A plan by former vice president Joseph R. Biden Jr. also aims to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, using $1.7 trillion and new taxes on pollution for funding. Both of these plans would space out the spending over a decade.
Of the Republican Candidates, none have released plans of action to date. Current President Donald Trump actively denies the existence of climate change and has taken many steps in his presidency to dismantle existing policy acting on climate change.