Which Green New Deal?

Against the Current, No. 203, November/December 2019

Howie Hawkins

AS A CANDIDATE for the Green Party 2020 nomination for president, I released a Budget for an Ecosocialist Green New Deal(1) during the Global Climate Strike, September 20-27, 2019. Our bottom line is that a ten-year, $27.5 trillion public investment in a Green Economy Reconstruction Program is needed to zero out greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 across all sectors of the economy: electric power, manufacturing, agriculture, transportation and buildings.

The program would create 30.5 million jobs, including 8.7 million jobs in manufacturing. Unlike any of the other Green New Deal proposals, we show our homework — how we got these numbers.

Our ecosocialist Green New Deal also includes an Economic Bill of Rights, which is an ongoing program of public provision to ensure jobs, income, housing, health care, education and retirement. The Economic Bill of Rights will cost $1.4 trillion per year and create another 7.6 million jobs.

Our whole Green New Deal is a 10-year $42 trillion program that creates 38 million jobs.

We derive our goal for 2030 from the global carbon budget that climate science indicates is the timeline that rich countries like the United States must meet to get atmospheric carbon dioxide back into the safe zone of below 350 parts per million (ppm) by the end of this century. The Earth reached 415 ppm in May 2019.

The 2020 deadline that we advocated in 2010 was based on this same science. But nearly ten years later, 2030 is now the earliest a crash program could convert the economy to 100% clean energy. Beginning a decade later means that we have to not only eliminate carbon emissions as soon as possible. We also have to invest more in drawing carbon out of the atmosphere and into Earth’s soil and crust through forestation, organic agriculture, habitat restoration, and perhaps through industrial acceleration of the natural geological carbon cycle.(2)

Our Signature Issue

The Green New Deal in fact has been the signature issue of the Green Party for a decade. I was the first to run on it in 2010 for governor of New York. It was our program to get us out of the Great Recession. We proposed to revive the economy with public investments in clean energy and in public jobs, education, health care, and other social supports.

We called for public ownership and investment in clean energy to zero out greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. We called for an Economic Bill of Rights for living-wage jobs, an income above poverty, affordable housing, publicly-funded universal health care, lifelong tuition-free public education, and a secure retirement through a supplementary public pension program for all workers in the state.

We called it the Hawkins prosperity plan vs. the Cuomo austerity plan. The Democratic “lesser evil,” Andrew Cuomo, touted himself as “the real Tea Party candidate.” He blamed teachers and public employees for the state’s fiscal crisis, called for cuts in education and public employment, and opposed tax hikes on the rich.

We showed how restoring the more progressive income tax structure and the stock transfer tax of the 1970s would close a $9 billion fiscal gap and provide an additional $25 billion the first year for the Green New Deal.(3)

By August 2010, 62 Green candidates across the country came together to issue a call for a federal Green New Deal that included a 70% cut to military spending to help pay for it.(4) Jill Stein, the Green presidential candidate in 2012 and 2016, ran on the Green New Deal, as did many Green candidates for local, state, and congressional offices over the decade.(5)

One week after November 2018 elections, the national media focused on the Green New Deal thanks to the Sunrise Movement. These youth — joined by newly-elected Representative Alexandrea Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) — occupied House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office to demand a Green New Deal. A December public opinion poll showed that more than 80% of registered voters supported it.(6)

Almost every Democrat running for president soon had a Green New Deal. Even Governor Cuomo had his own Green New Deal for New York. Greens were glad that the idea was now at the center of political debate, but the Democrats had taken the brand and watered down the content.

The original demand for a Select Committee for a Green New Deal was soon shot down by Speaker Pelosi. So AOC and Senator Ed Markey came back with a Non-Binding Resolution for a Green New Deal.

The aspirational goals in the non-binding resolution retained the Green Party’s link between economic justice and climate action with its call for an Economic Bill of Rights, which Greens believe is essential to counter the jobs-vs-environment line the energy corporations use to counter proposals for serious climate action.

The non-binding resolution, however, cut out or weakened important pieces of the Green Party’s climate action side of the Green New Deal. It extended the goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions from 2030 to 2050, which is too slow to prevent climate catastrophe.

The resolution also dropped the federal ban on fracking and building of all new fossil fuel infrastructure, the indispensable immediate demand of the climate movement. It cut out the rapid phase-out of nuclear power and did not call for a major shift in spending from the military to clean energy.

The Democratic leadership then shot down the non-binding resolution. Speaker Pelosi would not schedule a vote on the non-binding resolution, which she ridiculed as a “green dream.”

Senate Leader Mitch McConnell did schedule a vote to force the several Senators running in the Democratic primary to take a position, but the Democratic leadership told their senators not to go on the record by voting “present.” The Democratic senators obeyed their leaders, except for the four who joined the Republicans in voting “no.”

Despite these maneuvers, the Demo­cratic and Republican leaders have not been able to shut down the movement and popular support for a Green New Deal. It is now the central theme of the whole climate movement. Many of the Democratic presidential candidates have felt compelled to offer their own versions.

An Ecosocialist Budget

Our ecosocialist Green New Deal emphasizes public ownership and planning, instead of relying on the profit motive in markets to effectively and rapidly implement the program. It also emphasizes rebuilding America’s hollowed-out manufacturing sector so that we have the capacity to build the clean energy infrastructure and equipment for a new economy of environmental sustainability and economic security for all.

We propose to do what the federal government did in World War II when it built or took over a quarter of U.S. manufacturing in order to turn industry on a dime into the “Arsenal of Democracy” — it needs to do nothing less today to defeat climate change.

Rebuilding the manufacturing sector on an environmentally sustainable basis (clean power, zero waste, non-toxic materials) is key to the whole program, and unique among all the Green New Deal proposals to date. We will need that manufacturing sector to build the clean energy systems in all sectors.

Elizabeth Warren does have a 10-year $2 trillion Green Manufacturing Plan as part of her Green New Deal. But relying on federal R&D, procurement, and export subsidies rather than public ownership and planning, Warren’s plan will not transform manufacturing with the speed and certainty that is needed.

Public ownership and planning is the only way to rebuild and convert all sectors — manufacturing, agriculture, transportation, buildings as well as electric power — to clean energy and zero emissions. The ecosocialist Green New Deal therefore employs a large sector of public enterprises in green manufacturing — starting with the machine tool industry that is necessary to produce the manufacturing equipment for intermediate and consumer goods manufacturing.

These manufacturing public enterprises will produce the equipment needed for an Interstate Renewable Energy System, an Interstate High-Speed Rail System, and an Interstate High-Speed Internet System.

While public enterprises in some sectors should be publicly-administered services – energy, railroads, internet, health care, public housing — others, such as manufacturing plants, should be leased out to worker cooperatives where workers would control their labor process and share the full fruits of their labor in proportion to their work contribution.

Our ecosocialist GND budget also shows how we can pay for the gross cost of this 10-year $42 trillion program. Progressive tax reforms (income, wealth, estates, financial transactions, land value and more) would generate $22 trillion. Cuts to spending on the military, border enforcement, and the war on drugs would generate nearly $8 trillion.

That still leaves about $13 trillion that will need to be borrowed under the current monetary system. We propose public banks and Green Quantitative Easing (Green QE) to finance this additional investment, only this time the Fed would use a Green QE asset purchase program to bail out the people and the planet instead of the banks.

The Green Party has a proposal for raising this money without incurring federal debt. It is a modern version of the greenback demand of the farmer-labor populists of the Greenback-Labor and People’s parties of the late 19th century.

Under the Constitution’s provision that gives Congress the power to “coin money,” the Federal Reserve would be nationalized as a Monetary Authority in the Treasury Department and issue greenbacks (United States Notes as opposed to Federal Reserve Notes in digital and paper form) that the Treasury Department would place into the economy on the Green New Deal without incurring debt by borrowing through the issuance of treasury securities.

The net cost of the Green New Deal may be zero or even positive in the long run. Sales of public goods and services created by Green New Deal industries — green machinery sales, electric power fees, internet fees, public transportation fares, public housing rents — will generate a return on the public investment.

Bernie Sanders says his Green New Deal will pay for itself through the sale of publicly owned and distributed electric power. We have not calculated revenues from our Ecosocialist Green New Deal, because what those prices should be are policy decisions that will have to balance the need for revenues and the need to provide some goods and services at lower cost, such as clean electricity and public transportation, in order to encourage their use.

Determining those prices should be done by the cabinet-level Office of Climate Mobilization that we call for, which will be charged with planning the implementation of the Green New Deal and coordinating all federal agencies to achieve its goals.

Democratic GND Proposals

We will leave aside the Economic Bill of Rights part of the Green Party’s Green New Deal here in comparing the Democratic Green New Deal proposals, because theirs only focus on the climate/clean energy aspect — except for Bernie Sanders who has called for an Economic Bill of Rights as a program separate from his Green New Deal.

All the Democratic candidates’ proposals fall far short of what is needed for climate safety, with the exception of Bernie Sanders’ proposal. They rely on federal standards, regulations, and tax and subsidy incentives to move the economy to zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Many of them seek 100% clean electricity by 2030 or 2035, but electric power production accounts for only 28% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. They wait until 2050 to eliminate emissions from the transportation, buildings, agriculture, and manufacturing sectors that account for the other 72%.

The public spending levels that the Democrats propose for their Green New Deals are far below what is needed to convert the economy to clean energy.

While we find that a 10-year $27 trillion public investment in clean energy is needed, their 10-year budgets are an order of magnitude lower: Joe Biden $1.7 trillion, Cory Booker $3 trillion, Pete Buttigieg no budget, Tulsi Gabbard no budget, Kamala Harris no budget, Jay Inslee $3 trillion, Amy Klobuchar no budget, Beto O’Rourke $1 trillion, Elizabeth Warren $4 trillion, Andrew Yang $2.5 trillion (mostly for adaptation to climate change).

While many of these candidates state that their public investments will generate three to five times more in private investments, Kamala Harris simply calls for $10 trillion in public and private investment without indicating the public/private leveraging ratio or being specific on any details.

Tulsi Gabbard has not endorsed the Non-Binding Resolution for a Green New Deal and counterposed it to HR 3671, the Off Fossil Fuels Act (OFF Act), of which she is the prime sponsor.

The OFF Act aims to zero out emissions by 2035 through a combination of banning new fossil fuel infrastructure and mandating dates for clean electric power, zero-emissions vehicles, and electrified trains. It relies on private industry to meet the mandates rather than public ownership and planning, a politically dubious assumption.

Exxon and Koch Industries, Duke Energy and National Grid, GM and Ford, and Union Pacific and CSX are not going to simply comply. They need to be socialized to take their enormous private economic power out of the political equation.

Of all the Democrats, only Gabbard and Sanders call for bans on fracking and new fossil fuel infrastructure, a transfer of money from the military to clean energy, or a phase-out of nuclear power. Biden and Yang call for more nuclear power and carbon capture technology to allow continued fossil fuel burning.

Bernie Sanders’ Green New Deal is a serious proposal with public investment in the same order of magnitude as our proposal. He calls for a 10-year public investment of $16.3 trillion. While his proposal doesn’t show how he derived his numbers, the numbers look reasonable to us given his slower timeline for zeroing out emissions across all sectors.

Sanders’ proposal seeks zero emissions from electric power by 2030 and from all other sectors by 2050, in contrast to our timeline of all-sectors zero emissions by 2030. Like our proposal, his calls for public ownership of utilities and a large sector of renewable energy. But Sanders doesn’t call for public ownership of manufacturing and railroads, which we believe is essential to make the transition rapidly.

International Dimensions

It will take a global commitment to a rapid transition to renewable energy to avert a climate holocaust. China’s Belts and Roads Initiative will be powered by 700 coal plants. Russia recently launched the first of seven planned barges with two nuclear reactors into the Arctic Ocean to power oil and gas wells. India’s carbon emissions are growing at five percent a year as it rapidly expands its coal plants and oil-fueled vehicle fleet. But most of the world’s nations, including most of its poorest nations, have been pushing for stronger climate action.

It will take a sophisticated mix of diplomacy and economic incentives to help the rest of the world jump from the 19th century fossil fuel age into the 21st century solar age. Many of the Democratic candidates talk about providing U.S. “global leadership” on climate, but only Sanders commits money to it. His Green New Deal would invest $200 billion investment over 10 years in the Green Climate Fund.

The Green Climate Fund was set up at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009 to help developing nations build clean energy facilities. But thanks to vetoes by China, India and Saudi Arabia, it does not ban investments in fossil fuel projects. Our ecosocialist Green New Deal calls for a 10-year $1 trillion investment in a Global Green New Deal to assist developing countries to develop clean energy systems.

A 10-year, $42 trillion ecosocialist Green New Deal may seem like a lot to ask of a federal government that would spend $44 trillion over 10 years for all of its programs if the FY 2019 budget level continues. But the costs of not making that investment are greater.

A recent study in Nature(7) found that if the world meets the goal of the Paris climate agreement of 2ºC above the pre-industrial level (we have already reached 1.1º increase), global GDP will still fall 15% below the 2010 level by 2100. If temperatures rise by 3ºC, global GDP will fall 25%. If temperatures rise by 4ºC, global GDP will fall by more than 30%, which is more than it collapsed in the 1930s Great Depression.

These losses are permanent due to irreparable damages to services the environment provides to the human economy. Our Ecosocialist Green New Deal aims to limit the rise in temperature to 1ºC or less by the end of the century.(8)

Global GDP in the worst case would be $10 to $20 trillion a year below its 2010 level. With almost a quarter of global GDP, U.S. losses would be about $2.5 to $5 trillion a year.

By preventing these losses, an investment of $2.7 trillion a year over the next 10 years in rapidly building a clean energy economy will more than pay for itself.


  1. Green Party of New York State, “Peace, Justice, and a Green New Deal,” http://howiehawkins.com/2010/images/stories/2010/Slate-Platform.pdf; Howie Hawkins, “Take the Rich Off Welfare to Erase the Deficit and Fund Jobs, Schools, Homes, the Environment, and Local Governments,” http://howiehawkins.com/2010/platform/26-progressive-tax-reform.html; Howie Hawkins, “Jobs, Climate Protection, and a Green New Deal for New York State,” http://howiehawkins.com/2010/media-releases/289-hawkins-on-jobs.html; Howie Hawkins, “Tax the Rich for a Green New Deal”, http://howiehawkins.com/2010/images/stories/2010/labor-day-flyer.pdf; Howie Hawkins’ Green New Deal, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwccului0Wc.
    back to text
  2. Howie Hawkins, “350 ppm, 1ºC, and 100% by 2030: The Climate Science Behind the Targets,” May 12, 2019, http://www.howiehawkins.org/350_ppm_1_c_and_100_by_2030_the_climate_science_behind_the_targets
    back to text
  3. Green Party of New York State, “Peace, Justice, and a Green New Deal,” http://howiehawkins.com/2010/images/stories/2010/Slate-Platform.pdf; Howie Hawkins, “Take the Rich Off Welfare to Erase the Deficit and Fund Jobs, Schools, Homes, the Environment, and Local Governments,” http://howiehawkins.com/2010/platform/26-progressive-tax-reform.html; Howie Hawkins, “Jobs, Climate Protection, and a Green New Deal for New York State,” http://howiehawkins.com/2010/media-releases/289-hawkins-on-jobs.html; Howie Hawkins, “Tax the Rich for a Green New Deal”, http://howiehawkins.com/2010/images/stories/2010/labor-day-flyer.pdf; Howie Hawkins’ Green New Deal, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwccului0Wc.
    back to text
  4. Green Change, “62 Green Candidates Call for ‘Green New Deal’ to Change the Course of our Nation,” August 10, 2010, http://www.howiehawkins.com/2010/index.php/media-news-reports/162-green-change-62-green-candidates-call-for-qgreen-new-dealq-to-change-the-course-of-our-nation.
    back to text
  5. Jill Stein for President, “The Green New Deal,” https://www.jill2016.com/greennewdeal.
    back to text
  6. Timothy Cama, “Poll: Majorities of both parties support Green New Deal,” The Hill, December 17, 2018, https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/421765-poll-majorities-of-both-parties-support-green-new-deal.
    back to text
  7. Marshall Burke, W. Matthew Davis, and Noah S. Diffen­baugh, “Large potential reduction in economic damages under UN mitigation targets,” Nature, May 28, 2018, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0071-9.
    back to text
  8. See note 2.
    back to text

November-December 2019, ATC 203


  1. A few months ago, I let my subscription to New Scientist lapse after its new editor wrote that there was no need for panic over climate change: just keep the economy lively, and new technologies would solve the carbon problem. We could, she implied, eat beef and cheese, buy new (electric) cars, fly away for vacations and family events, and lead, by world standards, lives of comfort and ease. Hawkins message is similar, with the addition of detail and social change. The rentier class will be upset, but an enormous construction program, of building a new electric generation and distribution system, new plants for machine tools, and then consumer goods, improved farms–not specified–and social programs, like health care based on cooperatives, will leave us in clover. We regular folk, not the current ruling class, may have to persuade other nations to get on program, through economic sanctions, though not warfare, of course, as most populations care about the fate of the earth, though their current rulers may have backward thinking. We will enjoy having renewable energy (let us grant that there is such a thing) and high speed internet–even high speed rail. And with the latter, I have to question his sanity or intelligence. Even forget about the building of a new interstate rail system of any speed. Energy costs for operating trains will rise in proportion, not to the speed, but to the square of the speed. High school physics, no?

    Hawkins shows that with fifties tax policies, what he proposes is possible. But he doesn’t show that any of his programs will not bust the carbon-dioxide budget. Isn’t it reasonable to call for an immediate cut in carbon emissions? Is it not likely that any big construction program will worsen climate problems? Are there scientists who think that new construction and technology will let us go on living the easy (except for war, poverty, drought, and fire) life while we build a new electric future? I hope that we can leave out the blood in Churchill’s famous triad, but the sweat and tears seem a better predictor of the future.

    Words and names count too. Why ‘New Deal’? Why take the name of a failed, dwarfish program? One that didi not end the depression? Why a program that carefully left out Afro-Americans? Only the dramatic increase in consumption, based on wasteful war spending, ended the depression. And now what is needed least of all is increased consumption.

    I think you ought to be more careful that what you publish makes sense.

    1. The Ecosocialist Green New Deal I advocate absolutely projects lives of ease comfort and ease for the masses, not only the upper classes. It projects increased clean energy consumption for the poor and cuts energy consumption for the rich. It is a plan for immediate and rapid cuts in carbon emissions to meet the carbon budget that climate science indicates rich countries like the US must meet to in order avert climate armageddon. Its targets are zero greenhouse gas emissions and 100% clean energy by 2030, and, by 2100, reducing atmospheric carbon to below 350 ppm and global warming to 1ºC.

      To call for sacrifices across all the economic classes plays right into the decades-old corporate canard that environmental action will cost you your job and economic security. With a life expectancy gap between our richest and poorest counties now at 20 years, with average life expectancy declining the last three years for the first time in American history, if a Green New Deal doesn’t show the masses a path to economic security, climate action is politically dead.

      The consumption of the richest 10% of the world’s people accounts for 49% the global greenhouse gas emissions. The poorest half of the world account for only 10%. With an Ecosocialist Green New Deal, more equitable income distribution and more of our energy consumption coming from energy-efficient collective consumption (public transportation and public electric power) and denser urban structures (walkable communities created through public transit and public housing), the consumption of energy by the poor will rise while the energy consumption of the rich will fall.

      The Ecosocialist Green New Deal I advocate will increase the real wealth (measured as use values) of the working classes even as – due to resource and energy efficiencies and more equitable income distribution – the economy will shrink by the conventional measure (exchange values, which is what GDP adds up).

      I invoke the New Deal because it remains a popular memory and the last significant US public sector program to directly assist working-class people. As problematic as the original New Deal was in many respects, notably its racial bias and insufficient scale to end the Depression, it is is a precedent of positive government action that shows we have taken a different approach before. It shows we can do something different from trickle-down supply-side incentives for the rich and big business that have dominated US economic policy for the last half-century.

      Because New Deal liberalism was insufficient, I call for an Ecosocialist Green New Deal. We need socialist economic democracy to give us the power to choose policies that meet everyone’s basic material needs within ecological limits. Democracy is no guarantee we will make the right choices. However, what is guaranteed under capitalism is that its private corporate tyrannies and their captured capitalist state operating in their rigged monopolistic markets will not stop capitalism’s structural growth imperative that is busting ecological limits.

      With a socialist economic democracy, we can plan to produce goods for durability instead of planned obsolescence. We can build build zero-waste production systems that recycle materials instead of disposing of them, thus reducing the negative environmental impact of the extraction and disposal of materials. Consumption of materials will decline while quality of life as measured by use values will rise.

      The Ecosocialist Green New Deal supports farmers’ transition to organic agriculture with subsidies, technical assistance, and guaranteeing an income above production costs through parity pricing for all farm products and supply management programs to prevent overproduction and low prices that do not cover production costs.

      The most relevant comparison for high-speed inter-city rail is air travel, not slow-speed rail, which we don’t have much of anyway. Air travel is carbon intensive, even if fossil fuels are replace by biofuels that recycle the carbon in growing the fuels. But electric-powered trains can be powered without carbon emissions through solar and wind electricity. In any case, the relation of energy consumed to speed in trains is linear, not exponential .

      The Green New Deal will have to be global to prevent climate chaos. The US can’t have any influence on the rest of the world until it sets an example with its own Green New Deal. The budget for the Ecosocialist Green New Deal I have proposed calls for spending $1 trillion over ten years assisting other countries with their own Green New Deals. Being the humanitarian superpower this way will do far more for US security and world peace than continuing to spend $1 trillion a year on a global military empire.

    2. An old comment. But so misguided I had to write this, likely to be unread.

      Why ‘New Deal’? Why take the name of a failed, dwarfish program? One that didi not end the depression? Why a program that carefully left out Afro-Americans? Only the dramatic increase in consumption, based on wasteful war spending, ended the depression. And now what is needed least of all is increased consumption.

      Everything above is fabrication and propaganda, largely emanating from the extreme right of the Roosevelt era. The New Deal was not dwarfish, did not fail, and did end the Depression. According to the usual economists’ definitions of Depression, it ended in 1933! Since the facts and figures and usual standards of judgment make Roosevelt and the New Dealers look too good – known-to-be false figures are still standard and sane standards are never applied. The best easy place to get facts and figures and analysis that bears some resemblance to reality is the Living New Deal web site. The big picture historiography of the New Deal from the Right, Center & LEFT, even from places like ATC – amply deserves the adjective “insane”; not just wrong but insanely wrong, telling stories which are logically impossible.

      As one can garner from reading the black press of the era – and looking at the shifts in voting from Republican to Democrat – sure the New Deal left out Afro-Americans. But it left them out less than what preceded it. It was the biggest positive change in their conditions of life since the Civil War, bigger than anything since. FDR didn’t have a magic wand. But he did do a lot. So much that so many imagine he had a magic wand and blame him for not doing what was his successors jobs – including us.

  2. This Green New Deal is the real thing. I call on the progressive and democratic socialist Democrats to adopt this plan as their own. Through a great role of public ownership and worker run cooperatives, and by its ambitious scale, it is a means to change the world, save the planet, unite our country, and make society finally a liveable place for all !

Leave a comment

ATC welcomes online comments on stories that are posted on its website. Comments are intended to be a forum for open and respectful discussion.
Comments may be denied publication for the use of threatening, discriminatory, libelous or harassing language, ad hominem attacks, off-topic comments, or disclosure of information that is confidential by law or regulation.
Anonymous comments are not permitted. Your email address will not be published.
Required fields are marked *