While the national media have largely gone silent on the Green New Deal, evidence shows that its vision remains vibrant with much of the public – and that it is being implemented all over the country at a community, local, and state level.
For the past year I have been researching and writing about initiatives around the country to implement the core ideas of the Green New Deal at a community, state, and local level – what I call the “Green New Deal from Below.” I have discovered hundreds of projects, policies, programs, and new laws that embody the principles of the Green New Deal at a sub-national level. But as I begin to tell people about what I am finding, I often get a response that I could paraphrase as “The Green New Deal – isn’t that just last-decade’s fad?” That is often followed with the question, “What’s left of the Green New Deal?” That’s the question I address in this Commentary.
Green New Deal – the Backstory
The Green New Deal is a visionary program to protect the earth’s climate while creating good jobs, reducing injustice, and eliminating poverty. Its core principle is to use the necessity for climate protection as a basis for realizing full employment and social justice. It became an overnight sensation with a 2018 occupation of Nancy Pelosi’s office by the youth climate movement Sunrise supporting a congressional resolution by newly elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calling for a Green New Deal. A poll released December 14, 2018 by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication found that 40% of registered voters “strongly support” and 41% “somewhat support” the general concepts behind a Green New Deal.
Soon after the occupation of Pelosi’s office, a wide swath of public interest organizations endorsed the Green New Deal, which also instantly became a prime whipping boy for the Right. Its core ideas were embodied in legislation by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Edwin Markey, which divided the Democratic Party into pro- and anti-Green New Deal factions. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden convened a Unity Task Force that included Bernie Sanders, AOC, and the head of Sunrise, which came up with a plan incorporating many elements of the Green New Deal but eschewing the name. Biden called his program Build Back Better, and after the 2020 elections this became the nomenclature of Democratic Party and allied climate, jobs, and justice programs. A broad coalition of organizations called the Green New Deal Network, for example, developed and promoted an extensive legislative program, described on its website as “in line with the Green New Deal vision,” which it dubbed the THRIVE Agenda. Supported by more than 100 members of Congress and 280 organizations, the THRIVE Act was introduced in Congress in the fall of 2020.
In sum, the Green New Deal was evacuated from the central role in political and media attention it had gained by three forces. The excoriating attacks of the political Right, supported by the fossil fuel industry, helped publicize but also stigmatize the Green New Deal, leading to a loss of support among Republicans and some Independents. Joe Biden’s substituting “Build Back Better” for the “Green New Deal” coopted its program while removing its name from the public eye. The legislative struggles over Biden’s “Build Back Better” programs removed the transformational dimension of the Green New Deal from the center of public attention.
The Green New Deal is alive and well in public dialogue and is being implemented at a local level
To get some sense of the current status of the Green New Deal idea I searched Google News for Green New Deal references in 2022. Here are some – though by no means all — of the stories I found:
Washington, DC: “D.C. Council Testimony on the Green New Deal for Housing Amendment Act of 2022.”
Boston: “As a Green New Deal City, we look for climate investments that provide a return on climate mitigation, economic justice, and quality of life,” said Oliver Sellers-Garcia, Green New Deal Director.
Boston: “Mayor Michelle Wu today appointed Oliver Sellers-Garcia as the City of Boston’s first ever Green New Deal Director.”
Seattle: “Today, the City of Seattle’s Green New Deal reached a critical milestone as Mayor Bruce Harrell signed into law $6,491,539 in 2022 Green New Deal Opportunity Fund investments that will accelerate the City’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, build community resilience to climate change, and increase net zero affordable housing.”
Seattle: “Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell accepted an award from C40 Cities and Bloomberg Philanthropies for the critical work Seattle is doing to advance community-driven, tangible climate action and justice through the Green New Deal. Seattle was nominated for “Building a Climate Movement” alongside other projects reflecting ambitious city-led efforts to support a diverse, inclusive, and equitable climate movement.”
Cambridge MA: “Cambridge’s own Green New Deal: How Cambridge is working to build a more sustainable future”
San Francisco: “Crowds Gather to Mourn Club Q Victims and 44th Anniversary”
“We have had so much progress in terms of new laws protecting LGBTQ … of forming a blue/green new deal where everyone is working together.”
Kingston, NY: “Ulster County will host public workshops on Nov. 14 and Nov. 16 on the development of a Natural Resources Inventory and Municipal Toolkit for Ulster County. The Natural Resources Inventory was planned as essential to the Green New Deal Plan for Ulster County.”
Los Angeles: “Mayor Eric Garcetti today released the third update of his Green New Deal, which demonstrates dramatic progress on the ambitious targets he set three years ago, highlighted by a 36% reduction in L.A.’s citywide greenhouse gas emissions from the City’s 1990 baseline.”
Two things are apparent in this survey. First, the Green New Deal has far from vanished from public view; it is still operating as a frame for public discussion and as something that people are trying to implement. Second, the efforts to implement it are largely centered at a local and state level.
The Green New Deal is still an active whipping boy for the Right
If the Green New Deal has been abandoned to languish by some on the left, it is still a live target for the Right. Rick Scott said last March, after excoriating President Biden’s energy programs, “It’s an unthinkable reality for nearly every American alive today, but it’s not an impossible future if America blindly adopts the failed, radical Green New Deal agenda being pushed by liberals in Washington.” And the Heritage Foundation headlined an article in July, “Inflation Reduction Act – or Radical Green New Deal?”
2022 Polling Shows Continuing Public Support for the Green New Deal
A March 11, 2022 poll by Data for Progress found “The Green New Deal is incredibly popular.”
In early 2022, Data for Progress conducted new polling on a larger group of six core Green New Deal bills with extensive demographic detail. Even with high costs disclosed, every bill has majority support from every demographic polled other than Republicans. That means that men, women, voters over and under 45 all strongly support every bill, as do Black, white, and Latino/a voters, and urban, rural, and suburban voters.
Black voters are by far the biggest proponents of the legislation. They support every core piece of GND legislation by at least +60 percentage points, with an overwhelming average of 78 percent supporting.
Various findings are edifying for proponents of specific bills. For example, the Green New Deal for Cities, which would fund climate projects in every city or county, enjoys support from rural voters by an +35-point margin. Republicans support the Green New Deal for Schools by a thin +4-point margin. All bills enjoy some GOP voter support while they receive zero GOP support in Congress.
The Green New Deal wins elections
Three political scientists, Meagan Carmack, Nives Dolšak and Aseem Prakash, analyzed the impact of the Green New Deal as an issue in the 2020 elections. In a Washington Post article based on their academic research they wrote:
We looked into whether American voters will cast ballots for politicians who want new climate legislation — and found that Democrats who endorsed the Green New Deal (GND) resolution in Congress got a higher share of votes in the next election than their colleagues who did not.
Further, that co-sponsorship helped incumbents more than other ways they might have tried to assure voters that they cared about the environment.
Further, the Republican campaign against the Green New Deal might have helped those Democrats. Voters may … have been more likely to know about the Green New Deal co-sponsorship, making it a more credible climate policy credential.”
While it is too early to have reliable data on the impact of the Green New Deal as an issue in the 2022 elections, candidates who were elected on a Green New Deal platform have maintained that their advocacy helped them win. Greg Casar, newly elected representative for Texas’ 35th district, said, “Youth power, union power, people power, and a Green New Deal won this election — period.” Summer Lee, the first Black woman elected to Congress from Pennsylvania, describing her victory, noted, “We’re championing a Green New Deal, climate justice, housing justice, racial justice: aka a livable future for all.
Support for the Green New Deal remains strong among progressive organizations and leaders
Before the 2022 elections nearly 50 progressive organizations announced a Green New Deal Champions Pledge for candidates for office:
If elected I pledge that I will use my office to champion a Green New Deal in any and all ways, including but not limited to: developing and supporting Green New Deal legislation and/or resolutions; building support amongst my colleagues for a Green New Deal; and publicly advocating for the necessity of a Green New Deal.
In order to fully uphold this duty, I pledge to not take contributions over $200 from oil, gas, and coal industry executives, lobbyists, or PACs and instead prioritize the health of our families, climate, and democracy over fossil fuel industry profits.
“Political Partners” for “Green New Deal Champions Pledge” included:
- 350 Action
- Alliance for Youth Action
- American Federation of Teachers
- Association of Flight Attendants – Communications Workers of America
- Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation
- Caring Across Generations
- Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund
- Center for Popular Democracy
- Chesapeake Climate Action Network Action Fund
- Climate Hawks Vote
- Climate Justice Alliance
- Common Defense
- Dogwood Alliance
- Food & Water Action
- Friends of the Earth Action
- Future Coalition
- Gen-Z for Change
- Grassroots Global Justice Alliance
- Green New Deal Network
- Greenpeace USA
- Indigenous Environmental Network
- Kentuckians For The Commonwealth
- Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition
- Labor Network for Sustainability
- March For Our Lives
- Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition Action!
- Mothers Out Front
- National Domestic Workers Alliance
- Native Organizers Alliance
- NDN Collective
- NY Renews
- Oil Change U.S.
- Our Climate
- Our Revolution
- People’s Action
- Progressive Democrats of America
- Public Citizen
- Social Security Works
- Sunrise Movement
- United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE)
- United We Dream Action
- WE ACT for Environmental Justice
- Working Families Party
- Zero Hour
Endorsing the pledge, Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey said:
Since I introduced the Green New Deal with Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, the climate crisis has only become more severe. We have to act now to deliver justice for communities on the frontlines of this crisis and create millions of green-collar jobs to save our economy and save our planet. I’m proud to stand with my colleagues in the House and Senate, and with an entire generation committed to climate justice, in the fight for a Green New Deal.”
On Earth Day 2022, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez celebrated the fact that “the Green New Deal is here.”
Stretching from Hawaii to Vermont, more than 60 GND-certified Community Projects include jobs and job training programs in sustainable building, rail expansion, bike infrastructure, trail infrastructure, advanced manufacturing and more. They also include efforts to curb the effects of climate change through resiliency, restoration, and preparation projects. Some GND projects also focus on environmental justice through the implementation of ADA-compliant green infrastructure, reimagining public spaces in frontline communities, and providing education and workforce training to underserved communities. Individually, these projects are great for each community, and when you look at them as a whole, you begin to see the foundations for a federal Green New Deal.
On the three-year anniversary of the introduction of Green New Deal legislation in Congress, the Progressive Caucus posted this message on Instagram: “3 years ago today, @Rep AOC and @SenMarkey introduced the Green New Deal. Climate change has only escalated since, to what the U.N. has called ‘a code red for humanity.’ Communities on the frontlines of the crisis continue to suffer. Now more than ever: We need a Green New Deal.” And the Sunrise Movement, whose actions kicked off the Green New Deal “craze,” revised its overall strategy 2022, but kept the Green New Deal as its centerpiece: “Sunrise 2.0, a strategy best encapsulated in a 12-page document that was finalized in June, outlines four big shifts,” starting with “a focus on Green New Deal policies for schools and for communities.”
Reports of the death of the Green New Deal are greatly exaggerated
 Abel Gustafson et al, “The Green New Deal has Strong Bipartisan Support,” Yale Program on Climate Change, December 14, 2018. https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/the-green-new-deal-has-strong-bipartisan-support/ For a list of supporters and opponents see “Green New Deal,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_New_Deal
 For background on the evolution of the Green New Deal as a public issue see: “What remains of the US Green New Deal?” John Feffer, May 5, 2022. https://fpif.org/what-remains-of-the-u-s-green-new-deal/ and
“A Brief History of the Green New Deal So Far” Aviva Chomsky, Literary Hub, April 25, 2022.
 “Green New Deal,” Google News, accessed November 30, 2022. https://news.google.com/search?for=green+new+deal+problems&hl=en-US&gl=US&ceid=US%3Aen
 Yesim Sayin, “ D.C. Council Testimony on the Green New Deal for Housing Amenddment Act of 2022, D.C. Policy Center, November 22, 2022. https://www.dcpolicycenter.org/publications/green-new-deal-housing-testimony/
 “Wu Announces New Steps To Transition to Renewable Energy”, East Boston Times-Free Press, November 30, 2022. http://eastietimes.com/2022/11/30/wu-announces-new-steps-to-transition-to-renewable-energy/ , and “Oliver Sellers-Garcia Appointed Boston Green New Deal Director, City of Boston, August 8, 2022. https://www.boston.gov/news/oliver-sellers-garcia-appointed-boston-green-new-deal-director
 Jamie Housen, “Mayor Harrell Signs $6.5 Million in 2022 Green New Deal Opportunity Fund, September 22, 2022. https://harrell.seattle.gov/2022/09/22/mayor-harrell-signs-6-5-million-in-2022-green-new-deal-opportunity-fund/ , and “Building a Climate Movement,” C40 Cities. https://www.c40.org/awards/building-a-climate-movement/ , and Jamie Housen, “Seattle’s Green New Deal Wins Global Recognition and Award at the C40 World Mayors Summit, Seattle Office of the Mayor, October 25, 2022. https://harrell.seattle.gov/2022/10/25/seattles-green-new-deal-wins-global-recognition-and-award-at-the-c40-world-mayors-summit/
 Max Miller, “ Cambridge’s own Green New Deal: How Cambridge is working to build a more sustainable future,” The Tech, November 9, 2022. https://thetech.com/2022/11/09/cambridge-green-new-deal
 Katherine Monahan and Spencer Whitney, “ Crowds Gather to Mourn Club Q Victims and 44th Anniversary of Harvey Milk’s Assassination,” KQED , November 29, 2022. https://www.kqed.org/news/11933264/crowds-gather-to-mourn-club-q-victims-and-44th-anniversary-of-harvey-milks-assassination
 “Ulster County to host two natural resources workshops as part of Green New Deal,” Daily Freeman, November 11, 2022. https://www.dailyfreeman.com/2022/11/11/ulster-county-to-host-two-natural-resources-workshops-as-part-of-green-new-deal/
 “Mayor Garcetti Releases Green New Deal Update,” Small Business Update, June 9, 20223. http://www.sbeinc.com/resources/cms.cfm?fuseaction=news.detail&articleID=5160&pageID=25
 “IN CASE YOU MISSED IT… Sen. Rick Scott in Fox News: American Energy is on the Ballot and It’s Time to Send Biden, Democrats a Clear Message,” Rick Scott Press Releases, November 2, 2022.
 Jack Spencer, “Inflation Reduction Act – or Radical Green New Deal?” The Heritage Foundation, July 29, 2022. https://www.heritage.org/energy-economics/commentary/inflation-reduction-act-or-radical-green-new-deal
 Marcela Mulholland and Saul Levin, “The Green New Deal is Incredibly Popular,” Data for Progress, March 11, 2022/. https://www.dataforprogress.org/blog/2022/3/11/the-green-new-deal-is-incredibly-popular
 Meagan Carmack, Nives Dolšak and Aseem Prakash, “For Democrats, trying to slow climate change is good politics,” Alexandria Ocasio Cortez House Office, July 15, 2022. https://ocasio-cortez.house.gov/media/in-the-news/democrats-trying-slow-climate-change-good-politics
 Greg Casar, “Youth Power,” Sunrise Movement message, November 30, 2022.
 Summer Lee, “Giving Tuesday,” Sunrise Movement message, November 29, 2022.
 “Progressive Organizations Announce Green New Deal Champions Pledge,” Common Dreams, March 28, 2022. https://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2022/03/28/progressive-organizations-announce-green-new-deal-champions-pledge See also https://gndchampions.com
 Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, “The Green New Deal Is Here,” ocasiocortez.com, April 22, 2022. The statement includes a map with links to descriptions of the Green New Deal projects. https://www.ocasiocortez.com/green-new-deal
 Progressive Caucus Instagram message “Green New Deal Now” February 7, 2022.
 Whitney Bauck, “Where the Sunrise Movement Goes From Here,” Slate, November 28, 2022. https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2022/11/sunrise-movement-biden-ira-2024.html