The Green New Deal is something I ran on in 2018. At that time, it was like, if you’re into climate, the boldest thing you can do is support a carbon tax, and it seemed to lack political imagination. It didn’t have that inspirational quality — something positive to shoot for.
People were building their platforms around banning bags and paper straws and things that people have to give up. What was needed at that moment, I thought, was a vision of: What can we get? What better world exists on the other side of the clean energy transition?
Sunrise Movement, youth climate strikes — it just blew up after the election of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. A bunch of really influential progressive groups, including labor, frontline groups, indigenous groups, big greens: everyone was like, can we put aside our differences and consolidate our power around the climate agenda?
So we formed the GNDN. I was with People’s Action at the time. We were able to resource similar coalitions across twenty-three states and figure out where the levers of power were in the election year and kind of drive the agenda, once President Joe Biden was elected, of what Build Back Better would look like.
We set a stake in the ground of a trillion dollars a year in investments that centered climate care, jobs, and justice. Of course, if you don’t have 100 percent of the power, you won’t win 100 percent of your demands, but we made sure we focused on the needs of the most impacted. Ultimately, it resulted in the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.
That bill isn’t perfect by any means. There are harms in that bill that will hurt our communities, so we’ve been focusing on just implementation of the law, maximizing the goods, minimizing the harms, and also introducing various Green New Deal bills and making sure there’s public support behind them.
Unfortunately, a lot of the work that we’re doing now and we’ll be doing in the future is going to be around rebuilding efforts for climate disasters. So it’s heavy. I think the one thing that we should continue to call for is that President Biden needs to declare a climate emergency. And ending fossil fuels means denying permits, and then investing at least a trillion dollars a year moving forward.
So far, no candidate running for president on either side, including Democrats, has been campaigning on anything other than what they’ve already done on climate, and that’s not enough. Three degrees, four degrees of warming is still catastrophic. I used to talk about it in terms of my kids: Will they have clean air and clean water?
That’s not right. You can wake up tomorrow morning and your community can be flattened. Your church, your kid’s school, the grocery store you shop at could be reduced to ashes tomorrow. That’s the urgency we’re operating under, and anything less than investing a trillion a year and ending fossil fuels now is an insult to all the friends and family and neighbors that we lost in this fire a couple weeks ago.