The world has a very small carbon budget left to stay below a 2°C temperature rise.
The scientific community has warned us that, if we surpass this carbon budget, the world will head towards more intense heat waves and wildfires, severe droughts and mass migrations. For a 66% chance to stay “well below” a 2°C increase, we need to completely decarbonize our economies in about a decade.
The good news: it’s feasible. At least on paper. Two Green New Deal (GND) proposals, one in the US and another in the European Union, lay out a plan.
The sobering news: whether our politicians seriously try to tackle the climate crisis depends on the next few months alone. And you have a role to play.
It heavily depends on what happens with these proposals on both sides of the Atlantic. Your voice can influence this significantly.
What are the US and the European Green Deals?
At heart, both versions of the GND offer a vision, a North Star of where we need to head towards to create a world that protects nature, people and wildlife.
Both proposals are based on the principle of intersectionality. The climate crisis is a social crisis, which means that the factors that are destroying our planet are the same that are harming people.
For example, through extreme climate events that affect soil fertility, affecting those with less means most. Or income inequality, which makes it harder for low-income families to get back on their feet after a climate-change induced hurricane, flood or wildfire.
Both Green Deals agree that in order to do this, we have to restructure our economies; transition them away from fossil fuels, while investing into green jobs, green infrastructures and regenerative agriculture.
The fact that the GND proposals even exist and that they have gained political momentum gives us a once-in-a-century chance to curb climate change while making the system work for us, instead of mainly benefitting the 1%.
Because of the economic and political influence of both the US and the European Union, the success or failure of a GND could tip the scales when it comes to staying under a 2°C temperature rise.
We can’t let this chance slip away.
How can I support the Green New Deal in the US?
In the US, the GND is not yet a detailed policy proposal; it’s not a bill. It’s just a 14-page document drafted by a think tank called New Consensus.
The idea was then picked up by activist groups, like the Sunrise Movement, or public figures such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, propelling it into politics and public discourse.
That’s why in the US the results of the upcoming presidential election will have a significant impact on how, if at all, the proposal of a GND is actually translated into law.
Assuming the GND will be applied in some form, its success in curbing climate change will depend on your vigilance for how the plan is applied at state level.
How can I support the European Green Deal?
The European Green Deal (EUGD) has already been translated into a specific package of concrete measures.
This is mostly thanks to the awareness campaign led by Fridays for Future, the climate movement initiated by Greta Thunberg, which pushed the EU to finally do something about climate change.
The measures in the EUGD are now being translated into so-called climate law. We should all watch closely how this key process unfolds over the course of the coming weeks and months.
The climate law will define by how much all 27 members of the union have to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. All European laws will have to align with the target defined by the climate law.
So it is very important that the reduction target of greenhouse gas emissions defined by the climate law is ambitious. Unfortunately, the EU is already finding loopholes to avoid significant commitments.
How the European Union is cheating on its climate targets
In theory, the EU has agreed to reduce carbon emissions by at least 55% in comparison to levels in 1990 — the minimum scientists are urging for. However, if one looks closer at what is not being accounted for in that emission target, one realizes that the number itself is a bluff.
One such loophole, for example, is that the EU wants to exclude international emissions from its carbon budget. If any of us in the EU buys shoes from Bangladesh, for example, that country would be expected to account for the emissions caused during the production and transport of the item consumed in the EU.
This goes against the principle of climate justice and hides the EU’s actual footprint on the planet.
As things stand, these loopholes mean that the EU’s newest reduction target actually translates to a target of only about 42%. This would reduce the odds of remaining under a 2°C rise to less than 50%.
What you can do to push for the European Green Deal
This is just one of many loopholes. Here’s what you need to know to help stop the climate law from being watered down:
There is a general misconception that the EU has the power to enforce its decisions on the national governments that form the union. In reality, member states also sit at the negotiation table and have a say in how ambitious the emissions reduction target should be.
If you are a citizen of the European Union, the single most important thing you can do is call out your government to sign a climate law that sets the EU’s 2030 climate target at an actual 66% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
You can start by signing and sharing this petition.
Are the Green New Deals feasible?
The corona crisis has unmasked the hypocrisy of questioning whether we can finance necessary transformations of the ways our societies work – and survive.
There is nothing new about the Green New Deal. Variations of these proposals have been around since the global financial crisis of 2008, both in the US and in the European Union.
But there is simply no way around decarbonizing our economy, no matter how many loopholes our politicians try to find.
If you live in the EU, don’t let your guard down. Follow the development of the climate law and let your government at home know that you’re watching closely. If you are a US citizen, this upcoming election you have a chance to let your vote be a clear sign that we won’t accept anything less than climate justice.