1. Update
  2. Economic Justice, Environment & Energy

Grassroots Action Pushes Green Deal to the Forefront

By Emily Wirzba, December 17, 2018


As Washington, D.C. prepares to welcome a new Congress in January, there has been much conversation and activism surrounding a bold new climate change agenda called a Green New Deal. FCNL is excited by the momentum and elevation of the need for ambitious climate policy. We also remain committed to building up bipartisan support for climate action in the 116th Congress.

The Green New Deal is not yet a specific policy proposal. It is a set of principles calling for the creation of an ambitious climate plan. Incoming Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) and organizations like the Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats are urging congressional leadership to create a special Select Committee within the House of Representatives to draft legislation that will decarbonize our economy and rapidly transition to 100 percent renewable energy sources within ten years.

The hoped-for policy would have economic and racial justice at its core. It is an ambitious agenda that would prioritize a massive investment in green technology; the elimination of greenhouse gas emissions from our transportation, agriculture, and infrastructure systems; and create a green jobs guarantee, among a wide range of other things.

The proposal has gained momentum and support from progressive Democrats, who were concerned that climate change was not going to be a top priority for the Democratic Party in the 116th Congress. The week after the election, activists organized by the Sunrise Movement held demonstrations and sit-ins in Congressional offices, asking for a Green New Deal. Then on Dec. 10 roughly 1,000 activists followed up with demonstrations, sit-ins, and lobby visits. Influential members of Congress such as incoming Rules Committee chairman Rep. Jim McGovern (MA-02) and Progressives Caucus co-chairs Reps. Mark Pocan (WI-02) and Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) have now endorsed the plan.

FCNL is encouraged to see the groundswell of grassroots enthusiasm for action on climate and heartened by the plan’s specific centering of an equitable and just economic transition away from a fossil-fuel based economy. It is important that climate change has been elevated as a priority among Democrats, and that legislators are planning for the longer-term, ambitious policies we will need to remain below 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, as recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

FCNL also remains deeply committed to our work to advance bipartisan action on climate change at the federal level. Members from both parties are needed to implement the lasting solutions necessary to reach an earth restored. With the introduction of two Republican-supported carbon pricing bills in the last five months, the MARKET CHOICE Act (H.R. 6463) and the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividends Act (H.R. 7173), important groundwork has been laid this Congress towards reducing our emissions and addressing climate change. We see near-term opportunities – around carbon pricing, infrastructure, energy storage and efficiency, and climate adaptation – to build off of this momentum in the next Congress.

The Green New Deal is comprehensive and bold. As we wait to see what policy form it will take, we hope that the importance of bipartisanship will not be forgotten. We have seen that legislation and executive action that is taken unilaterally cannot pass or fails to stand the test of time. We look forward to seeing Green New Deal legislation, once it has been written and introduced, and are eager to work with a broad spectrum of perspectives on climate solutions in the 116th Congress.

Emily Wirzba

  • Legislative Representative, Sustainable Energy and Environment

Emily Wirzba leads FCNL’s lobbying work to achieve bipartisan recognition of climate change and action in Congress. Emily meets with members of Congress and their staff to promote FCNL's environmental priorities. She also works closely with FCNL's network across the country to organize constituents to lobby, write, and advocate for bipartisan environmental action in Congress. She currently serves as co-chair of the Washington Interreligious Staff Community's Energy and Ecology Working Group.