The Green New Deal was reintroduced on Thursday in part to debunk the notion that President Biden is leading the fight against climate change and reinforce the message that his administration is “going in the wrong direction,” according to one member of an environmental coalition involved in the relaunch.
Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) led the third relaunch of the Green New Deal Thursday alongside climate justice and labor groups outside the Capitol. Although congressional Democrats at the event emphasized that more needs to be done on climate and the environment, they did not frame the bill as a critique of the Biden administration.
The resolution, taking cues from FDR’s New Deal, is a 10-year job creation plan aimed at addressing the climate crisis.
One group involved in the relaunch was the Climate Justice Alliance. One of its members, Institute for Policy Studies Director of Climate Justice Basav Sen, told TYT that the timing of the Green New Deal’s reintroduction is critical as it comes on the heels of Biden’s approval of two new Alaskan fossil fuel projects: the controversial Willow oil drills and the Alaska LNG (liquified natural gas) export project.
“[R]ight now we are seeing the Biden administration, which claims to be the climate presidency, in a huge rush to approve more fossil fuel production and export infrastructure,” said Sen. He called the Willow Project and Alaska LNG Project “part of a pattern of actions by the Biden administration – all of which have not received adequate public attention.”
According to Sen, the Biden administration has approved more drilling projects on public lands than the Trump administration did in the same amount of time, and is approving LNG export projects along the Gulf Coast “at a breakneck pace.”
“[I]f they're questioned about it, they keep defending themselves by saying, ‘Oh, we passed the IRA [Inflation Reduction Act]’ as if somehow that absolves them of responsibility for what they're doing,“ said Sen. The White House did not respond to a request for comment on the environmentalists’ critiques.
Environmental and climate justice organizations have long been critical of the IRA, saying that it doesn’t go far enough to reach the ambitious climate goal of cutting emissions in half by 2030, and includes provisions that exacerbate the harm done by fossil fuels.
While Sen acknowledges there are “commendable” parts of the IRA that will, for example, increase renewable electricity generation and move people away from using gas as a heating source, he argues that the effects will be “quantitatively insufficient.” He says the perception that Biden’s administration has dealt with the climate crisis is “a very dangerous idea.”
And Juan Jhong-Chung, climate justice director for the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition – which is also part of the Climate Justice Allience – told TYT, “[T]he IRA, number one, is not doing anything to end fossil fuel extraction. In some places, it's actually expanding leasing for oil and gas and federal lands. So we want to stop that. And we also want to counter fossil fuel handouts, which are carbon capture and hydrogen subsidies.”
Now, some environmental justice activists are questioning whether they should attend an event at the White House on Friday where Biden is expected to announce new actions to advance environmental justice.
Sen said, “[S]ome people are concerned that their very presence would be used as window dressing by the White House to claim that they are engaging with environmental justice communities and they are consulting with them.”
With the 2024 election looming, Sen says now is the time for environmental justice groups to leverage the power of their movement. If Biden wants to retain the votes of many of the Black, Brown, low-income, and working-class people who live on the frontlines of environmental hazards, Sen says Biden will have to “expend some political capital on their behalf by standing up to the fossil fuel industry” – which Sen says the president so far has been unwilling to do.
“We need to make a public stink about the fact that the United States claims climate leadership on the world stage while continuing to pump out oil and gas and continuing to sacrifice the health of environmental justice communities here at home,” says Sen.
TYT Washington Correspondent Candice Cole was previously a correspondent and senior White House producer for the Black News Channel and has worked at a number of local news outlets. You can find her on Twitter @CandiceColeNews.