Developing Strategies for U.S. and Global Green New Deals

The Cooperative Society Newsletter
January 2019, Issue 13
by E.G. Nadeau, Ph.D.

We’ve written two books about the societal transformation that we believe is taking place. Our hypotheses are based on our research of seven broad sets of variables such as economic power, the environment, quality of life, and more. If this is of interest to you – and it quite possibly is because you’re here at our website – we invite you to download a free PDF of our book, The Cooperative Society: The Next Stage of Human History, Second Edition, or find information on buying the book here. Thank you.

What is a Green New Deal?
There has been a lot of buzz recently about launching a Green New Deal in the United States, with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (often referred to as AOC), the new congresswoman from New York, playing a lead role in championing this initiative.[1]

However, questions abound. What is a Green New Deal? Can this catchy title be turned into a pragmatic set of new policies? Can there be a global counterpart to this progressive American idea?

What a Green New Deal is depends on whom you ask. In a comprehensive article that appeared in early January in Vox magazine, David Roberts defined it this way:

“It refers, in the loosest sense, to a massive program of investments in clean-energy jobs and infrastructure, meant to transform not just the energy sector, but the entire economy. It is meant both to decarbonize the economy and to make it fairer and more just.”[2]

green new deal

To elaborate, Roberts’ definition would combine a variety of initiatives to reduce global warming, decrease poverty, create jobs, and effectively implement a green paradigm for the American economy. This new economic model would prioritize human and environmental needs, reduce the economic influence of large corporations, and reduce economic inequality.

Some question the overarching and complicated nature of such a transformation in American energy and economic policy. Some see it as a threat to fossil-fuel-based corporations, and to an entire society that has been dependent on fossil fuels almost since capitalism began. Others worry about the difficulty of implementing such a wide array of changes at the same time. By taking on too much at once, they fear that we may end up with nothing or very little. Effective climate action could get lost in the shuffle.[3]

green new deal

The same kinds of comments can be made about an international version of a Green New Deal. Some observers laud such a possibility, while others worry about losing a worldwide consensus (we’ve already lost the Trump administration) on the urgent need for climate reform by the addition of too much additional baggage. 

When was it first proposed?
The “New Deal” part of the phrase originated with the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt, whose administration used this catchphrase to encompass an array of programs intended to pull the United States out of the Great Depression of the 1930s. It was not one massive reform, but a series of separate programs and regulations that together constituted major changes in the federal government’s role in creating jobs and increasing economic and social security.[4]

The New York Times columnist and author, Thomas Friedman, is credited with first using the phrase “Green New Deal” in 2007. In early January 2019, Friedman wrote another op-ed, “The Green New Deal Rises Again,” in which he expressed support for the renewed sense of urgency in addressing climate-change problems.[5]

Presidential candidate Barack Obama included the phrase Green New Deal in his platform in 2008. [6] And in 2009, the United Nations produced a report entitled “Global Green New Deal.”[7] But then, domestic and international concerns shifted to addressing problems created by the Great Recession, and the momentum for a comprehensive approach to climate change temporarily hit the skids.[8]

cooperative green society

The phrase Green New Deal reemerged during the 2018 midterm election campaigns of several progressive, Democratic candidates for Congress. This time around, the concept has received a lot of attention – both positive and negative – in the press and among politicians and environmental and social activists. It is too soon to tell whether or not the momentum toward implementing some version of a Green New Deal – at the national and international levels – will stick this time or fade into the background again.

A survey conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication in mid-December shows “overwhelming support for the Green New Deal, with 81% of registered voters saying they either ‘strongly support’ (40%) or ‘somewhat support’ (41%) this plan.”[9] 

What might a pragmatic version of this idea look like in the United States?
The young progressives in Congress who are championing a Green New Deal for the United States (and for the world) are already being “put in their place” by their congressional elders. For example, AOC and her fellow insurgent colleagues have already lost the fight to have a special committee established to focus on preparing the way for the implementation of Green New Deal legislation.[10]

But that doesn’t mean they have lost the war. They and other advocates are already gearing up for the 2020 presidential and congressional elections. They plan to keep pushing their message for the urgent need to link climate change and positive economic change in order to simultaneously reduce the risk of catastrophic global warming and create an economy that provides well-paying jobs and economic security.[11]

I have one piece of advice for these Green New Deal advocates: Just as the Roosevelt administration did so successfully with the New Deal, think in terms of a set of reforms rather than one massive program. These reforms could include increased federal and state incentives for conversion to solar, wind, and other renewable sources of energy, for electric vehicles, and for energy-efficient buildings. They also could include job training and job creation for a green economy; increased taxes on the wealthy and/or taxes on carbon-dioxide emissions; and economic benefits for the poor tied to climate change, renewable energy, and energy efficiency.

electric vehicles

As a global initiative?
The reemergent Global Green New Deal has not yet been articulated in any detail, although it is considered by proponents to be an extension of the reform program being articulated for the United States.

What would the global version entail? The United Nations has already established a Green Climate Fund, the primary purpose of which is to assist poorer countries to implement carbon-reducing initiatives, and to adapt to the problems created by global warming – for example, protection against rising sea levels and agricultural practices that are more resilient to droughts and floods.[12]

bio farming

A key problem is, however, that there is not nearly enough money in this Fund to address the magnitude of the problems. It is not clear at this time how the size of the Fund could be rapidly and massively expanded.

There are also other bilateral, multilateral, and private-sector aid and economic assistance programs to accelerate climate reforms in developing countries. But, again, they do not match the urgency of the problem.

From my own research and my review of the literature, I am aware of a number of initiatives that could provide tens of millions of jobs in developing countries in the fight against global warming. They include forest-based carbon sequestration;[13] installation of solar-panel microgrids;[14] the rapid deployment of low-cost, electric vehicles; accelerated increases in the energy efficiency of buildings; and financial assistance in weaning countries off of dependency on fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable energy.[15]

The most recent studies are projecting that we have a little over 10 years to radically reduce greenhouse-gas emissions before the world will be subjected to major increases in climate-related disasters.[16] The proponents of domestic and international Green New Deals recognize the sense of urgency with which we need to mobilize our resources to counter this worldwide threat.

My primary caution is to follow the same type of multi-pronged strategy of the original “New Deal.” Let’s not try to do everything at once in one massive package. We can simultaneously benefit the planet and the economic circumstances of the people who inhabit it by introducing a broad set of reforms that vary by community and by country, rather than by striving for a holy grail, mega-reform that is likely to get snarled in its own complexity.

[1] Hand, Mark, December 4, 2018, “Ocasio-Cortez wants to unite generations of climate action efforts under the Green New Deal,” ThinkProgress.

[2] Roberts, David, January 7, 2019, “The Green New Deal, explained,” Vox Magazine.

[3] Gulker, Max, December 4, 2018, “The Inconvenient Truth About the Green New Deal,” American Institute for Economic Research.

[4] Wikipedia, January 8, 2019, “New Deal.”

[5] Friedman, Thomas, January 8, 2019, “The Green New Deal Rises Again,” New York Times.

[6] Kaufman, Alexander C., June 27, 2018, “The Surprising Origins of What Could Be The ‘Medicare For All’ Of Climate Change,” Huffington Post.

[7] Barbier, Edward, 2009, “A Global Green New Deal,” Report prepared for the Green Economy Initiative of UNEP.

[8] Ibid., Roberts.

[9] Gustafson, Abel et al, December 14, 2018, “The Green New Deal has Strong Bipartisan Support,” Yale Project on Climate Communication.

[10] Cama, Timothy, January 2, 2019, “House Dems formalize climate committee plans without Green New Deal language,” The Hill.

[11] Krieg, Gregory, January 8, 2019, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, activist groups map out next steps in Green New Deal fight,” CNN.

[12] Green Climate Fund, accessed January 9, 2019.

[13] Forestry paper.

[14] Nadeau, E.G., September 2018, “Can we Electrify the World by 2030?” The Cooperative Society Newsletter.

[15] Cimons, Marlene, December 29, 2018, “24 Million Jobs Could Be Created from Meeting Paris Climate Agreement Targets,” Clean Technica, originally published by Nexus Media.

[16] World Energy Outlook 2018, International Energy Agency, November 2018.

small-scale solar energy


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