Elites who divorce climate policy from social justice are almost as out of touch as those who deny climate science altogether
If you set aside Republicans’ obsession with cow farts, perhaps the most prevalent criticism of the Green New Deal is its emphasis on social justice. Critics contend that the far-reaching climate agenda is far too concerned with extraneous issues such as jobs, infrastructure, housing, healthcare and civil and indigenous rights. Stick to greenhouse gases, they say; reforming the energy system is utopian enough.
This criticism crosses the aisle among elites. In February, the New York Times editorial board wondered whether addressing the climate crisis was “merely a cover for a wish-list of progressive policies and a not-so-subtle effort to move the Democratic Party to the left?” A day later, the Washington Post editorial board opined that serious policymakers should not “muddle” decarbonization with social programs that “divert money and attention from the primary mission”. And in a widely circulated 11,000-word Open Letter to Green New Dealers, Jerry Taylor, the president of the Niskanen Center, a pro-market environmental group, was incredulous. “The Green New Deal resolution quite literally gives a nod to every single last policy demand forwarded by the Democratic Socialists of America,” he wrote. “The climate is too important to be held hostage to political commitments.” The general gist of all this: take your social justice agenda elsewhere, activists. It has no place in serious climate policy.
Elizabeth Warren unveiled a $2tn green manufacturing platform that included explicit commitments to unions and communities of color