Road to a Green New Deal - Issue 26
May 19, 2022
Illustration by Annie Wolfond

Green New Deal for Birmingham Network Updates

The Green New Deal for Birmingham (GND4BHM) campaign has recently made significant strides in recognizing and acting on the importance of engaging youth voices. GND for Birmingham’s spring intern, Danielle Wormsby, has founded the Green Teens Club. This club has worked to engage high schoolers around the GND campaign, including spreading the word about an art contest held for high school students in Birmingham, who were asked to submit their vision for a GND in Birmingham. In addition to engaging youth perspectives, the campaign has been working to involve the community at large. One way they have done so is by beginning a series of community climate assemblies to discuss different pillars of a GND and explore community-driven, justice-centered solutions. The first one was centered around the issue of clean air, land and water with the following five happening throughout the year.

Washington D.C.’s Green New Deal for Housing

Despite a lack of action at the federal level, municipalities are still striving for a Green New Deal. One such example comes from the District of Columbia. D.C. Councilmember Janeese Lewis George recently introduced a Green New Deal for Housing Amendment Act of 2022. If passed, this bill would create D.C.’s first social housing, defined as public housing for working and middle-class people with strong environmental standards. When practicable, each social housing building would have around one third of units designated to be extremely low-income, another third designated to be very low-income and the last third would be market-rate so that higher-income tenants can subsidize the affordable units. The bill also requires environmental standards to ensure all new social housing developments are net-zero and that older housing undergoes energy efficiency retrofits. To that end, the bill suggests creating an agency to handle social housing, with potential funding sources being the Housing Production Trust Fund and DC Green Bank. Also aligning with the spirit of the GND, Councilmember Lewis George introduced another bill that would hasten the removal of lead services lines at private and public properties while also creating new jobs.

The Fight for a Just Transition for South Africa’s Electricity Sector

Electricity workers in the National Union of Metalworkers (NUMSA) and allies are working towards a just transition of South Africa’s nationalized electricity sector, Eskom. Eskom, primarily powered by coal, has a mandate to transition to renewable energy by 2050. Eskom has been a cause of long-standing political contention because of the entity’s tremendous, accumulating debt and the country’s rolling blackouts. The government has responded with austerity measures, such as electricity rate hikes. The South African government is intent on privatizing the sector in the hopes of remedying these issues. During COP26, South Africa reached a deal where the U.S. and some European countries would provide $8.5 billion to “make it easier for for-profit firms to sell solar and wind power on Eskom’s wires,” thus working towards decarbonization. This is just one example of how the need to address the climate crisis has been used as a reason to privatize, even though capital-led transitions have failed to perform at the scale needed. In South Africa, decarbonization has been inaccurately pitted against decommodification, which is why NUMSA is working towards a just transition where people’s basic needs are met, electricity is decommodified and decarbonized, and an equitable dividend is provided to communities and workers. 

A Brief History of the Green New Deal

As the popularity of the term “Green New Deal” has become evident, it is worth reflecting on how we have arrived at this moment. In “A Brief History of the Green New Deal (So Far)”, Aviva Chomsky describes GND proposals coming from the US and Europe as well as the origin of the term. “Green New Deal” references New Deal policies that transformed the U.S. economy during the Great Depression and has come to embody different concepts or proposals related to climate action. The term implies the need for the same deep transformation through government investment and power to engage in economic redistribution and social protections, with some proposals embodying these concepts more than others. In February 2019, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced the U.S. version of the GND. Despite its flaws, the proposal was groundbreaking because it connected climate goals with socioeconomic changes and prioritized workers and marginalized communities. With the help of movement power, the GND became more widely known and some of that language can be seen in Biden’s policies, such as the 2021 American Jobs Plan. Chomsky also references two policies coming from Europe. One comes from the EU, the European Green Deal, which is a market-oriented platform primarily filled with suggestions rather than mandates. Another proposal, the Green New Deal for Europe, comes from the Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM25) and includes more detailed policy proposals for vast, just, economic transformation and for the democratization of the E.U. While each proposal varies, Chomsky concludes by stating that it is important for any mobilization to ensure countries in the global North act at the scale of policy intervention needed.