Last February, hotshot rookie Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attracted a whirlwind of attention when she and Senator Ed Markey unveiled a “Green New Deal” for America.
The plan to combat climate change was notable for two reasons. The first, that it includes some pretty drastic suggestions for how the U.S. should limit carbon emissions that go further than the usual sort of half-measures that politicians float in Congress. And the second, that it appears to be a very rare example of a plan that was built on a genuine understanding of climate change and the true severity of the crisis humans now face.
Now Canada has a corresponding "Green New Deal" of its own.
Today (May 6), a long list of Canadian organizations and individuals together unveiled a proposal to reduce emissions in the country by 50 percent by 2030.
“The climate crisis is here,” begins a statement at GreenNewDealCanada.ca. “Arctic permafrost is melting, forests, towns, and Indigenous territories are burning. States of emergency—declared for once-in-a-century floods—are becoming commonplace, and millions around the world already face dislocation and starvation.
“But that’s not the only thing keeping us up at night,” it continues. “Many of us are struggling to find an affordable place to live, or a decent job to support our families. Hate crimes and racism are on the rise. And promise to Indigenous peoples have yet to be implemented.
“We need an ambitious plan to deal with multiple crises at the same time.”
The details of the plan remain a work in progress.
The coalition’s website states that step one is to “unite a diverse movement,” and then that step two is to “develop a shared vision”.
Step three will be to “push political leaders to act”.
The new deal’s website asks anyone who represents an organization that might want to get involved to contact organizers.
There’s already a long list of notable groups that have signed on. They include Greenpeace, Indigenous Climate Action, 350.org Canada, and many others.
Well-known individuals who have pledged their support for the plan include Neil Young, K.D. Lang, William Shatner, Naomi Klein, and Stephen Lewis, among others.
At a press conference in Vancouver today, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said that his support for the plan is rooted in the future.
"We owe it to our grand children,” he explained.
Vancouver musician Dan Mangan say beside him. "We must act, or be prepared to suffer the consequences,” said Mangan, who also similarly mentioning his children.
Nayeli Jimenez, an organizer for Our Time 2019 who’s based in Vancouver, also spoke there. She argued that the Green New Deal is different from plans to combat climate change that have come before it.
“It’s not just an environmental issue,” Jimenez explained. “It’s not just a political issue. It actually kind of brings everything into one narrative. So to me, this is the first time that’s seen the relationship and the intersection of all these issues.”
While Canada’s Green Neal Deal has managed to attract a lot of headlines with its unveiling, it remains to be seen what kind of momentum the coalition is going to maintain.
It wasn’t that long ago that some of the same big names that today are lending their support to the new deal were involved in the launch of a similar plan called the Leap Manifesto.
Launched in 2015, the Leap Manifesto landed with similar fanfare among environmentalists and some segments of the left, but was quickly rejected by right-wing politicians as well as most mainstream media outlets. They called it unrealistic and predicted it would be a drag on Canada’s economy that the general public would not tolerate.
But, as the Straight reported then, such doom-and-gloom dismissals were not entirely fair. The Leap Manifesto was a more realistic plan to combat climate change than its critics claimed.
At today’s press conference, Phillip emphasized that something needs to be done, because the time that remains to avoid the worst consequences of climate change is quickly running out.
"As Indigenous people, our market place is the land and it's disappearing rapidly," he said. "The window is closing at an alarming rate and we need true, genuine leadership."