If the Big Apple is to become the Green Apple, it will have to ban the steel and glass towers that form its signature skyline, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
De Blasio, speaking on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” said that city’s most iconic structures – the tall skyscrapers seen from miles away – are the “biggest source of emissions” in New York City. The drastic change, and a switch to only renewable energy within five years, are necessary for Gotham to embrace the Green New Deal, de Blasio said.
“We are putting clear, strong mandates” to lower emissions, he said, warning property owners will face massive fines unless buildings are retrofitted.
“The first of any major city on the Earth to say to building owners, ‘you’ve got to clean up your act, you’ve got to retrofit, you’ve got to save energy,’” he said. “If you don’t do it by 2030 there will be serious fines, as high as $1 million or more for the biggest buildings.”
He continued: “We’re going to ban the classic glass and steel skyscrapers, which are incredibly inefficient. If someone wants to build one of those things they can take a whole lot of steps to make it energy efficient, but we’re not going to allow what we used to see in the past.
De Blasio said private building owners will be required to slash their emissions by 30 percent by 2030.
In the same conversation that he was touting renewable energy and reducing emissions, de Blasio also defended his use of a gas-guzzling SUV for his daily 11-mile trips from Gracie Mansion to his Brooklyn gym.
“Let’s make clear, this is just a part of my life,” he said. “I come from that neighborhood in Brooklyn. That’s my home. I go there on a regular basis to stay connected to where I come from and not be in a bubble that I think for a lot of politicians is a huge problem.”
The Green New Deal, championed by fellow New Yorker, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Washington, is a radical measure that called for a massive overhaul of the nation’s economy and energy use to cut emissions.
The deal calls for the U.S. to shift away from fossil fuels such as oil and coal and replace them with renewable sources such as wind and solar power. It also calls for the virtual elimination of greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming by 2030.
It is estimated to cost up to $93 trillion, or $600,000 per household, according to studies.
Later Monday – which is also Earth Day – de Blasio held a press conference to introduce further his $14 billion plan, called “OneNYC 2050: Building a Strong and Fair City.”
He called it a new comprehensive plan to “prepare our city for the future.”
“Every day we wait is a day our planet gets closer to the point of no-return. New York City’s Green New Deal meets that reality head on,” he said. “We are confronting the same interests that created the climate crisis and deepened inequality. There’s no time to waste. We’re taking action now, before it’s too late.”
Under his Green New Deal, de Blasio said the city is committing to carbon neutrality by 2050 and 100 percent clean electricity, including hydropower.
Fox News’ Samuel Chamberlain contributed to this report.
No senator voted to begin debate on the legislation, while 57 lawmakers voted against breaking the filibuster. Democratic Sens. Doug Jones of Alabama, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona joined 53 Republicans in voting “no.” Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who caucuses with the Democrats, also voted “no.”
The vote had been teed up by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in a bid to make Democratic senators — including several 2020 presidential candidates — go on the record about the measure. McConnell had called the proposal “a radical, top-down, socialist makeover of the entire U.S. economy.”
The Green New Deal calls for the U.S. to shift away from fossil fuels such as oil and coal and replace them with renewable sources such as wind and solar power. It calls for virtual elimination by 2030 of greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming. Republicans have railed against the proposal, saying it would devastate the economy and trigger massive tax increases.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, called the Green New Deal “ridiculous” and displayed pictures of dinosaurs, cartoon characters and babies on the Senate floor. He said he was treating the plan “with the seriousness it deserves.”
Democrats, led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, called McConnell’s move a “sham vote” that aimed to draw attention away from a real debate on the consequences of climate change. In addition to Sanders, Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York — all candidates for the Democratic nomination who have endorsed the Green New Deal — voted “present” Tuesday.
“Today’s #GreenNewDeal vote is a partisan stunt to side-step needed debate on climate action, and give Republicans cover to put oil lobby checks over our kids,” Gillibrand tweeted earlier Tuesday, adding ” … I don’t play ball with bad-faith farces.”
“Climate change is an existential threat, and confronting it requires bold action,” Harris said in a statement following the vote. ” … Political stunts won’t get us anywhere. Combatting this crisis first requires the Republican majority to stop denying science and finally admit that climate change is real and humans are the dominant cause. Then we can get serious about taking action to tackle the climate crisis at the scale of the problem.”
“[McConnell’s] stunt is backfiring and it’s becoming clearer and clearer to the American people that the Republican Party is way behind the times on clean energy and that Democrats are the party willing to take action,” said Schumer, D-N.Y., who asked, “… What’s the Republican Party proposal? Is it more coal?”
However, Democratic presidential candidate John Hickenlooper said Tuesday that he opposes the Green New Deal. The former Colorado governor said the proposal sets “unachievable goals” and shuns the private sector.
In explaining his “no” vote, Manchin said in a statement: “This climate problem is a massive one and we must act, but aspirational documents will not solve this crisis –real solutions focused on innovation will … The truth is even if we zero out our country’s use of fossil fuels tomorrow, we must face the facts that other nations have invested in and will continue to use fossil fuels to develop their economies for decades to come. We cannot successfully address our climate challenge by eliminating sources of energy that countries are committed to using.”
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said Democrats were being hypocritical by refusing to vote for their own plan. “I’ve never seen a bill sponsored by a dozen people who don’t want to vote on it,” he said.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., the Green New Deal’s main sponsor in the House, tweeted following the vote that she had encouraged Senate Democrats to vote “present” on the resolution.
“McConnell tried to rush the #GreenNewDeal straight to the floor without a hearing,” she wrote. “The real question we should be asking: Why does the Senate GOP refuse to hold any major hearings on climate change?”
At a news conference earlier Tuesday, McConnell said he believed climate change was real and at least partially caused by humans, but said the real question facing lawmakers was, “How do you address it?”
“The way to do this, consistent with American values and American capitalism, is through technology and innovation,” McConnell said. ” … Not to shut down your economy, throw people out of work, make people reconstruct their homes, get out of their cars, you get the whole drift here. This is nonsense, and if you’re going to sign on to nonsense, you ought to have to vote for nonsense.”
By “basically outlawing the only sources of energy that working-class and middle-class families can actually afford,” the Green New Deal would “kill off entire domestic industries” and eliminate millions of jobs, McConnell said. The plan could lead to a spike in household electric bills of over $300 a month, he said.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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By Benjy Sarlin
WASHINGTON — The Green New Deal has always been a plan to make a plan.
It sets an ambitious goal to move the economy toward net-zero emissions by 2030, but as supporters in Congress eagerly work to build out those plans into real legislation, they’re going to face stiff competition from politicians, activists and think tanks working on their own proposals from a different set of assumptions.
Even among backers of the nonbinding resolution introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., its broad strokes could sow disputes about what the Green New Deal means in practice. Ocasio-Cortez herself described the resolution as a “request for proposals” designed to elicit legislation from multiple lawmakers.
“This is the first chapter of the book,” said Elizabeth Gore, senior vice president of political affairs at the Environmental Defense Fund, a nonprofit advocacy group. “Where you start out on these proposals is not where you end up.”
Potential for conflict
One area where the Green New Deal activists could clash with other environmental groups, lawmakers and other officials are their demands for a suite of “economic justice” policies, which include items like single-payer health care, along with guaranteed jobs and housing.
The Green New Deal resolution mentions these issues in passing, but there’s no party consensus around them and health care is already shaping up as a defining debate in the 2020 Democratic primaries.
“My own view is these energy investments and clean energy investments are going to be considered separately when they get to real legislation,” John Podesta, founder and director of the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning advocacy group, told NBC News.
This could lead to confusion down the line. While many Democrats see the Green New Deal economic proposals as general goals, backers on the left see them as a critical component that they say will aid workers affected by the transition away from fossil fuels.
“It isn’t a section of the Green New Deal, it is the Green New Deal,” said Demond Drummer, executive director of New Consensus, a nonprofit that’s advised Ocasio-Cortez and is crafting proposals within the Green New Deal framework that could serve as a basis for legislation.
Many players, many plans
For Ocasio-Cortez and the activists who put the Green New Deal on the top of Democrats’ agenda, the race is on to define the maximalist approach and hold lawmakers to it.
Drummer said that the group’s plan is to produce regular policy proposals through 2019, with a goal of assembling a collection that lines up with all of the Green New Deal’s goals by January 2020.
“It’s not like there’s going to be this magnum opus that’s released in 2020,” he said. “There are some things ready to go now and some things that need to be worked on and revised.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is working on a “comprehensive” climate proposal that “builds on the (Green New Deal) resolution that was introduced and fleshes out a lot of those details,” communications director Josh Miller-Lewis said.
On the activist front, the Sunrise Movement is planning a national tour to promote the Green New Deal. They’ll also keep watch over the politicians working on related proposals, which includes the announced and potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, several of whom are co-sponsors of the resolution and are also likely to roll out their own climate plans on the campaign trail. In particular, they hope to maintain the plan’s strict 10-year path toward a clean economy, a goal some allies see as unrealistic.
“If proposals don’t close in on a timeline to get to net-zero emissions in the time the science demands, they’re not the Green New Deal,” said Stephen O’Hanlon, communications director for Sunrise Movement.
Democratic leaders have generally praised the Green New Deal’s ambition, but they’re staying neutral on where their congressional members go next on climate legislation.
The resolution has 68 co-sponsors in the House and 11 in the Senate, still well short of a majority of Democrats in either chamber.
“My view is that when there are issues subject to robust debate within the many members of the House Democratic caucus, that it’s best that I don’t weigh in until I have an opportunity to evaluate the particular legislative proposals and have a discussion with all of the interested parties,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., a member of the House leadership team, told reporters last week.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., created a new Select Committee on climate change, but resisted Ocasio-Cortez’s demands to task it with producing a plan for achieving the Green New Deal’s goals. The committee’s chairwoman, Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., has said only that the panel will operate “in the spirit of the Green New Deal.”
That leaves it to individual lawmakers and committees to take the lead and Green New Deal advocates may have some allies. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., chair of the powerful Rules Committee, is a co-sponsor of Ocasio-Cortez’s resolution, as is Transportation and Infrastructure chairman Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. His committee could potentially incorporate elements of the Green New Deal into legislation.
“I think you’ll see a different kind of infrastructure bill than you saw in the past,” Podesta said. “There will be more emphasis and reliance on clean energy, more electrification of the transportation sector, more investment in energy efficient buildings.”
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., a prominent policy voice in the progressive caucus, said he expected to see “lots of creative initiatives” under the Green New Deal banner, rather than one major bill. He’s working on legislation designed to boost tax credits for electric cars, an issue he’s pursued in prior legislative sessions.
However, the chair of Energy and Commerce, Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., is not a resolution co-sponsor and has sounded some skeptical notes on Ocasio-Cortez’s approach.
In the Senate, Republicans are in control, making movement on major legislation unlikely. But key Democrats are also less warm to the Green New Deal, most notably coal-friendly Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., the ranking member on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
There’s a fundamental legislative debate shaping up over how to tax pollution, an area where the Green New Deal may represent a more drastic break from prior Democratic plans.
For decades, Democrats across the ideological spectrum have sought to put a price on carbon emissions in order to encourage companies and consumers to adopt more energy-efficient practices.
Markey, the Green New Deal resolution co-sponsor, led a failed 2009 effort to enact cap-and-trade legislation that would set a total limit on pollution and then allow companies to buy and sell emissions allowances between them. It passed the House, but was never voted on in the Senate.
The Green New Deal resolution stays quiet on the topic of carbon taxes, but supporters have often framed their proposal as a rival framework to that approach.
Ocasio-Cortez has said cap-and-trade or carbon taxes could be part of an overall solution, but are “inadequate as the whole answer.” A coalition of environmental groups backing the Green New Deal are explicitly against the concept, with critics on the left arguing carbon taxes will raise prices for consumers and spark a political backlash. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who is weighing a Democratic presidential run, unsuccessfully tried to pass a carbon tax in his state last year and has since urged national Democrats to consider other approaches.
But many economists and environmental groups still back putting a price on emissions and some Democrats see it as an easier bridge to bipartisan support. Versions of a carbon tax enjoy backing from at least some Republicans and major corporations, including oil companies like ExxonMobil and BP, which see it as a way to avoid more intrusive government intervention.
In the House, Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., is co-sponsoring a bill with Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla., and a group of moderate Democrats to impose a $15-per-ton fee on carbon that rises over time and then pay out the collected revenue to Americans as a dividend.
“We have to create a disincentive,” Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., who has not signed onto the Green New Deal, told NBC News. “I favor a carbon fee and dividend, returning the dollars generated right back to taxpayers.”
Another carbon fee bill sponsored by a more progressive coalition of Democrats, Sens. Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, would start the price at $50-per-ton.
Schatz, who is considered an influential policy figure among progressives, has showered praise on the Green New Deal, but did not sign onto the resolution and has said he is working on his own proposals.
For now, the first legislative action on the Green New Deal will come from the Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is planning a vote on the resolution in an apparent bid to highlight divisions among Democrats, including the 2020 candidates, and lay the groundwork for future GOP attacks.
Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called McConnell’s move a “political stunt” in a speech on the Senate floor and challenged Republicans to release their own climate bills. Schumer has not signed onto the Green New Deal, however.
Benjy Sarlin is a political reporter for NBC News.