Bernie's Got a Green New Deal – Here's What's In It

Bernie Sanders has made climate change a key part of his campaign.
••• Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/GettyImages

Bernie Sanders recently unveiled the plan he has to fight climate change head-on should he win the presidency in 2020, and it’s getting both praise and criticism for its wild ambitiousness.

The comprehensive plan, which he’s calling The Green New Deal, includes a whopping $16.3 trillion investment into areas including public works programs, infrastructure overhauls and the creation of 20 million green, union jobs in areas like manufacturing, energy efficiency retrofitting and renewable power plants. It also calls for a transition to 100% renewable energy in transportation and electricity by 2030 and complete decarbonzation by 2050.

It would also recommit the country to global goals that have fallen by the wayside under the Trump administration, such as reentering the Paris Agreement.

Like many of the Vermont senator’s initiatives, the Green New Deal is designed to be a plan that not just addresses the logistics of putting a green economy into place, but also one that addresses the current and future victims of climate change who are often ignored. Sanders wants to make sure that under-resourced groups including Native Americans, differently abled people and the elderly receive funding from a $40 billion investment in the Climate Justice Resiliency Fund that could help as they lose jobs or are forced out of homes because of the climate crisis.

Where is the Money Coming From?

That’s one of the big questions with anything that has a price tag in the trillions. Sanders says that the plan has the power to pay for itself within 15 years. The money will come from a variety of places, including a scaling back of military spending, higher taxes on the rich and on corporations, new fees and elimination of subsidies for the fossil fuel industry and the revenue that will come from the 20 million additional jobs.

The price seems steep, but part of Sanders’ plan claims that the cost of inaction is substantially higher. Some experts say that the climate crisis will stop $34.5 trillion in economic activity by the end of the century.

So ... Can it Work?

Sanders and his team are calling the plan a “wholesale transformation” of the way Americans live and do business, and as is the case with any wholesale transformation, the plan has a whole lot of skeptics. Many claim that at best it’s unrealistic, and at worst, it will give climate change deniers or Sanders opponents more opportunities to paint his policies as too progressive or socialist.

But while many of its supporters acknowledge that the plan does have unrealistic elements, we’re at a place of no return in the climate crisis. We can’t afford not to implement sweeping, trillion-dollar, revolutionary changes to every aspect of American life.

The 2020 election is still more than a year away, and Bernie has a long way to go. But even if the presidency remains simply a dream of his, there are ways to show support for many of the aspects of The Green New Deal.

Call your representatives and tell them which ideas from this plan you hope they’ll push for, or work with your school administration to make small changes in your school such as cutting back on plastic waste or serving less red meat for lunches.

Most importantly, pay attention to the candidates during the election who are talking about climate change like the crisis it is. Even if you’re not able to give them your vote yet, voicing your support for them could convince someone else to check their name on the ballot.