Green New Deal gains traction on the campaign trail

Source: By Dino Grandoni, Washington Post • Posted: Monday, June 10, 2019

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) speaks in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Momentum for the Green New Deal is building — not so much in the halls of Congress, but on the presidential campaign trail.

Even though Senate quashed the proposal earlier this year, three different 2020 hopefuls this week continued to seize upon the moniker as they unveil climate plans that push the poles of debate to the left. Their sweeping plans to curtail climate-warming emissions globally involve both increasing diplomatic pressure abroad and ramping up spending at home, reflect the multi-faceted approach espoused by Green New Deal proponents.

On Monday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who has earned attention for both the depth and number of her detailed proposals, unveiled a plan to invest $2 trillion in federal funding in clean energy programs.

Then on Tuesday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who had based his entire campaign around climate change, announced his strategy for pressuring other countries to reduce heat-trapping gases by conditioning trade deals on emissions-reduction goals under the Paris climate accord.

And in perhaps the biggest coup of all for climate activists, former vice president Joe Biden, who is leading polls for the Democratic nomination, released a climate plan that embraces the proposals from the Green New Deal resolution introduced in Congress by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). He’s calling for net-zero U.S. emissions by 2050 at the latest while creating more than 10 million well-paying jobs. While not quite as aggressive as the 2030 deadline put forward in Ocasio-Cortez’s plan, which also guaranteed a job for every American, it was hailed by some environmental groups.

Like the Green New Deal itself — inspired by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal to build the United States out of the Great Depression — 2020 Democrats’ plans take linguistic cues from giant government programs of yesteryear.

As Jeff Stein and I reported this week, Warren’s plan, for example, includes a “Green Apollo Program,” a reference to the 1960s moon landings, to invest in clean energy technology. It also includes a “Green Marshall Plan,” a nod to the U.S. effort to rebuild Europe after World War II, to encourage foreign countries to buy U.S.-made clean energy technologies.

It’s not just talk. The actual policy prescriptions undergirding the rhetoric are shifting, too.

For example, a majority of 2020 Democrats, including Biden, Warren and Inslee, supporta ban on new leases for coal, oil and natural gas on federal lands and waters. Such a policy would be a sea change from the Obama administration, which sped up oil and gas leasing in 2011, just a year after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill as the nation faced rising gasoline prices.

In large part, the shift can be attributed to climate activists who agitated to make climate change a top Democratic priority. One of those groups, the Sunrise Movement, which protested in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office last year, took credit for Biden’s plan by calling it a “major victory” for their activists.

Yet the new enthusiasm for Green New Deal-style pieces of legislation among Democratic politicians does not make them any more likely to pass the GOP-controlled Senate. The upper chamber rejected Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal in a 57-to-0 vote in which most Democrats voted “present.”