Eye on the Amazon

The Green New Deal: More Than Just the Latest Buzzword

Climate protest in Oakland, California

We have eleven years. Eleven years to take bold climate action towards a world not powered by fossil fuels. For our indigenous partners fighting oil and gas extraction on their ancestral territories, there is no time to spare: further expansion of this dirty infrastructure will destroy their land, livelihoods, and way of life.

That's why Amazon Watch is excited to be joining over 600 organizations in outlining specifics of a Green New Deal that includes a managed decline of fossil fuels, increased consultation of indigenous tribes, workers, and those most impacted by climate change, and a rejection of false solutions like carbon trading and nuclear energy.

Last week, this coalition organized dozens of office visits to speak to our vision and deliver petitions demanding that the Green New Deal explicitly address fossil fuel extraction and create a truly just transition. Going forward, we will continue to raise our voices for a comprehensive Green New Deal and ensure that this proposal lives up to its potential to transform our economy and society.

Often, it feels like the United States is two steps behind, living in an alternate universe where climate change is in doubt and corrective climate action is optional at best.

The conversation around the Green New Deal is changing that. This call for bold climate action has become a buzzword, brought into the spotlight by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and the Sunrise Movement. What gained attention as a youth-led sit-in has become a joint resolution calling for full decarbonization of the US economy by 2030.

Since this idea has catapulted into the mainstream, I have felt more hopeful than I have in years. This hope stems from the transformative impact a Green New Deal would have on the United States' society and economic system. It also grows as I imagine the global implications of action taken here at home. As the world's largest historical emitter of carbon dioxide, our country has a debt to pay and an example to set.

Our action – or inaction – here in the one of the wealthiest countries in the world, sets the standard for addressing climate change, and it defines what is possible on the international stage. And the tone of our action matters deeply. Climate action is not simply about rapid decarbonization, it's also about who pays and who benefits. It's about getting off fossil fuels and creating a more just and equitable world that leaves no one behind in the process.

The resolution put forward last week by Ocasio-Cortez and Markey has strong language about protecting those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and explicitly recognizes the need to obtain free prior informed consent from indigenous peoples about projects occurring on their ancestral territories. It also speaks to the need to ensure access to clean air and clean water and create sustainable agricultural and land-use systems.

However, when the resolution dropped, climate justice advocates and pundits quickly picked up on an omission: explicit mention of the need for a phase-out of fossil fuel infrastructure in the United States.

Climate science clearly shows that we need to keep at least 80% of fossil fuels in the ground in order to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. If a Green New Deal is going to meet the scale and urgency of the climate crisis head on, it needs to name and own this reality.

This matters not only for the United States but also for our allies fighting fossil fuel extraction in the Amazon and beyond. If we do not address the root drivers of climate change here in the United States and make it a priority to support other economies in de-carbonizing, how can we expect countries like Ecuador to move toward a fossil-free economy?

As a young woman and climate justice campaigner, I know the world cannot afford any less.

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