A Global Green New Deal could provide the means to achieve the SDGs’ ends.
The US GND, as currently drafted in legislation before the US House of Representatives (H.Res.109) and US Senate (S.Res.59), suggests that it could provide an important step on the path to achieve both US national and global objectives.
Much of the proposed GND’s support in the US comes from young people, probably because they will have to live with the long-term consequences of current policies.
A Global Green New Deal could provide the means to achieve the SDGs’ ends. To reach the globally agreed SDGs, the world needs mechanisms – guidelines, legislation, and other plans for how they will be achieved in specific contexts. A close examination of the Green New Deal (GND) for the US, as currently drafted in legislation before the US House of Representatives (H.Res.109) and US Senate (S.Res.59), suggests that it could provide an important step on the path to achieve both US national and global objectives.
The proposed Green New Deal for the US puts forth goals that are consistent with the SDGs. The GND was developed based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, and its foremost goal is to “achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers,” creating “millions of good, high-wage jobs” and investing in “the infrastructure and industry of the United States.” This essence of the GND lines up with several of the SDGs: climate action (SDG 13) through industry, innovation, and infrastructure (SDG 9), resulting in decent work and economic growth (SDG 8).
Further aims of the GND with SDG parallels include clean air (included in SDG 3) and water (SDG 6), community resiliency (SDG 11), healthy food (SDG 2), and promotion of justice and equity by preventing and repairing historic oppression (SDGs 10 and 16). The GND was not written with the express purpose of achieving the SDGs, and doesn’t specifically address every SDG target, but the two agendas overlap in many respects.
Much of the proposed GND’s support in the US comes from young people, probably because they will have to live with the long-term consequences of current policies. The youngest current member of the US Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is the GND’s House Sponsor. The Sunrise Movement, which describes itself as an “army of young people,” is one of the Green New Deal’s most vocal supporters.
Most members of the Sunrise Movement’s hub in Williamsburg, Virginia are students from the College of William & Mary. Sunrise member Colin Cochran, who also works on SDG-related topics at the College of William & Mary’s AidData research lab, told me he believes this is because young people “are going to see the devastating impacts of climate change in our lifetime if we don’t succeed.”
In my communication with Sunrise activist Laís Santoro, who is active in the Baltimore, Maryland and Johns Hopkins University hubs, she added that young people often have a better understanding of the climate crisis than members of other generations. Even so, “there’s also lots of ageism and leaders talking down to us when we really do understand what will be in our future if we don’t take action. We’re the ones that are worried, experiencing climate anxiety or grief, or mental health conditions after climate disasters.”
Santoro admitted that the SDGs aren’t present in the agendas of Sunrise hubs in Baltimore or Johns Hopkins University, but she doesn’t think that means Sunrise isn’t advancing the SDGs. “We are actively fighting for a world where there is no poverty, where people are in good health and are not disproportionately exposed to toxic air and environments, we are fighting for sustainable cities and communities,” she explains.
Santoro adds that in the US, climate change “disproportionately impact[s] low-income communities of color that… do not have the mental health care to address those concerns.” The intersectionality of the climate, economy, and justice is at the heart of the work of the Sunrise Movement. It recognizes that the environment is not a special interest; it is a factor in the economy, in people’s cultures, and in people’s health.
The overlaps between the GND and SDGs are numerous and speak to the universal challenges that each of these agendas seek to address.
Sustainable US, Sustainable World
The GND is focused on the US, and the US alone. Cochran expressed doubt that the SDGs “have had a big impact on people’s view of the Green New Deal, and I don’t think many people [in the US] are really familiar with them.”
Many politicians in the US eye global agendas coming from the UN with suspicion, and do not prioritize international cooperation or dealing with issues that aren’t a domestic priority. These elements are missing from the GND, as they are sacrifices that the authors of the draft had to make for it to gain any political traction. Nonetheless, the GND outlines a sustainable future for the US that is in line with the future that the SDGs seek to inspire through global cooperation.
Even though the goals of the GND are focused on US domestic challenges and needs, its transformation into laws could lead to examples and lessons for other countries. Santoro, who immigrated from Brazil as a child, said “it’s really important for me to do what I can in [the US] because I have had the privilege of being able to move here… but my family cannot afford it anymore and is not welcome, given the current state of immigration policy.” She is passionate about climate justice, especially after smoke from the fires to clear the Amazon for agribusiness reached her hometown of São Paulo. That passion led her to champion the GND through Sunrise because Santoro believes “a Green New Deal for the US could mean a Green New Deal for the rest of the world!”
This article was authored by Lydia Grund, IISD Generation 2030 intern and biology and environmental science and policy major, The College of William & Mary.