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Analysis

Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal reflects 2016 Democratic Platform, but is much stronger

And the momentum behind climate action just keeps building.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks as Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) listens during a news conference to unveil their Green New Deal resolution  February 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. CREDIT: Alex Wong/Getty Images
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks as Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) listens during a news conference to unveil their Green New Deal resolution February 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. CREDIT: Alex Wong/Getty Images

On Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced the Green New Deal resolution to address the climate crisis while generating millions of high wage jobs.

But while the Green New Deal may appear to be a sweeping and radical new proposal, in fact its main ideas strongly resemble the 2016 Democratic Platform — a document written by some of the most senior party policymakers and endorsed by the entire party establishment at the Democratic National Convention that year.

Both documents lay out the case for immediate mobilization of the entire society to reengineer the economy to be run on renewable energy. Both insist on starting with a rapid decarbonization of the electric grid. And both lay out a broad and deep program.

If taken on their own, many of the commitments proposed in either the Green New Deal or the 2016 Democratic Platform tout similarly ambitious goals.

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As the 2016 text reads: “We are committed to a national mobilization, and to leading a global effort to mobilize nations to address this threat on a scale not seen since World War II.” Meanwhile the Green New Deal says we need “a new national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization on a scale not seen since World War II.”

And where the Green New Deal says the it must ensure “that frontline and vulnerable communities shall not be adversely affected” and provide “access to clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and nature,” the 2016 platform says “Our climate change policy will cut carbon emission, address poverty, invest in disadvantaged communities, and improve both air quality and public health.”

The 2016 platform was written by the 15-member Platform Drafting Committee  and was chaired by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) who has served in Congress for two decades and now chairs the House Oversight Committee.

It also included  people like is Neera Tanden, who is now president and chief executive of the Center for American Progress (CAP) and the CAP Action Fund (CAPAF), along with Carol Browner, who is a former Environmental Protection Agency administrator and on the CAP Board. (Disclosure: ThinkProgress is an editorially independent news site housed at CAPAF where the author has been a senior fellow for the past decade.)

The 2016 platform included activists like 350.org founder, Bill McKibben, who told ThinkProgress in an email this week that “the platform didn’t go far enough, but it does provide a good… platform for thinking this through.”

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And indeed the Green New Deal, which has been developed and promoted with the help of youth-led activist groups like the Sunrise Movement, does go farther that the 2016 platform.

The Green New Deal resolution says that a major goal of the 10-year national mobilization should be “meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources,”

As McKibben explained, at the time the 2016 platform “represented a sharp move away from ‘all of the above,’ and promised that if the Democrats won they’d convene an emergency climate summit to mobilize at a national level to deal with an emergency. And thanks to Sunrise et al., in some sense that’s what we’re getting right now.”

But since 2016, the science has only become more urgent. As the latest U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report warned last fall, we must make sharp reductions in global carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 to have any plausible chance of averting catastrophic climate change.

And the calls for strong climate action have only been growing since the midterm elections last November. So much so that many of the 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls are voicing their support for the Green New Deal.

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So, the Green New Deal is a logical outgrowth of the 2016 Democratic Platform — with ever-growing momentum. The fact that it calls for a faster transition to clean energy is also logical given that climate science has gotten even more urgent since 2016 — and that we now have a president who has been pushing emissions in the wrong direction.