AOC is right, we need unprecedented action to prevent climate catastrophe

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been US Representative for New York’s 14th District for less than two months, but she has already made waves in US politics so large that they have spread across the pond.

Last week, Ocasio-Cortez (or AOC, as she is popularly known) tabled House Resolution 109. The “Green New Deal” it outlines would transition the US to a carbon neutral economy and 100% renewable energy generation within ten years. These changes would be accompanied by massive investment in infrastructure, from improving the energy efficiency of buildings, to developing new transport links to reduce domestic air travel.

AOC is a self-described democratic socialist, so it is no surprise that this change is underpinned by economic policies some in our party would baulk at, notably a government jobs guarantee. The “Green New Deal” effectively posits the complete restructuring of the US economy. To call it radical would be an understatement. Yet on the issue which will define the next half century, she is bang on the money.

Because radical is what we need right now.

Last year’s publication of the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5˚C was simply the most high profile of numerous reports highlighting the sheer magnitude of the climate crisis we now face.

Between 1850 and 2011, the USA was responsible for 27% of all greenhouse emission – more than the whole of the EU combined – and it remains the second largest emitter today. It is welcome, then, that some in the US political elite are finally grasping the need to lead change on a massive scale.

Of course, we cannot rely on the US alone. The entire basis of the global economy needs to shift radically. Yet here in the UK all our political energy is being wasted on a vanity project of the far right. We are modern-day Neros, fiddling while Rome burns.

Commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement will not get us close to the necessary reduction. The UK’s Carbon Budget only requires a 57% reduction in emissions by 2030. In contrast, AOC has put forward a vision of change on the scale we need.

The “Green New Deal” may not be the preferred policy of the average Lib Dem, but it is an appropriate response to challenge we now face, and its success, even in part, would be a huge step forward. Like AOC, we should make the long-term survival of our planet a foundation for all policy we develop, from funding social care and investing in our infrastructure, to local devolution and housing. Anything else is futile.

On Friday, young people across the world staged a school strike for climate, following the action of Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. They, like AOC, have grasped the severity of the moment we face. As Thunberg put it; “I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”

* Jack Fleming is a Liberal Democrat member and activist based in London. He blogs at

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  • John Marriott 18th Feb '19 - 8:45am

    Fat chance of anything positive happening on the other side of the pond while Trump is at the helm of the ship of state. Let’s just hope that we get #46 in 2022.

  • Let us quickly move on, looks like some sort of break in Labour ranks is going to happen very shortly. We must not make the same mistakes as in 1983 and argue about things like which seats to contest, but be in total agreement. This could be a real opportunity. We would need a voting block in Parliament of 36+ so that the group could claim 3rd party status and get the weekly publicity from PMs question time. Would have to act as a group and be “whipped”. Might be the time for us Liberal Democrats to go in kitchen sink and all be part of a new party, if that is what is going to eventually emerge. We aint achieving anything on our own.

  • Jack Fleming 18th Feb '19 - 1:37pm

    @John, I agree that the Green New Deal won’t go anywhere before 2020. OTOH, its a potentially very powerful policy platform for the election. Its clear, distinctive, highlights what the party stands for – all things we sometimes struggle with.

  • Jack Fleming 18th Feb '19 - 1:44pm

    @theakes; let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Even with Labour defections, we would be a long way from 36, and we’d increasingly be at risk of losing the values which underpin what we want to achieve. I’m not saying we don’t need to make compromises to win – every party does – but we need to be sure of the cost.

    If they truly are Lib Dems, then they’re welcome. But we aren’t just a protest party…

  • Yeovil Yokel 18th Feb '19 - 2:22pm

    They may feel that they had to jump before they were pushed out (by Momentum), but I can’t see them retaining their seats at the next GE and surely only the Tories will benefit from this?

  • Yeovil Yokel 18th Feb '19 - 2:24pm

    …….sorry, posted that last comment in the wrong thread!

  • David Becket 18th Feb '19 - 2:30pm

    How has Labour got into this, Green Deal is much more important than some backbench Labour MPs.

    Much of her Green Deal we could agree with, so why is this party not producing its own Green Deal. If Ed had responded to the student that we are working to bring a Green Deal to Conference in September he would have been much more impressive. As it is Press Release after Press Release we go on about the deficiencies of other parties with less about our own proposals. We have a very tired leadership, which is why we are at 10%

  • Sean Hyland 18th Feb '19 - 6:59pm

    About time some notice being taken of the Green New Deal. Been around for a number of years and not really taken up by most parties.

  • Peter Martin 18th Feb '19 - 7:17pm

    @ Sean Hyland,

    A Green New Deal is a good idea, but it’s easier said than done. Supposing, for example, electric cars and vans became much cheaper to run than petrol cars and vans. At the same time we’ll probably see many more driverless cars on the roads which makes them cheaper to run than previously. So we get more vehicles on the road, clogging the cities, and we have to expand/reflate the economy to soak up the displaced workers.

    I’m not saying its all impossible but there’s a bit more to it all than building extra wind turbines and putting solar panels of roofs.

    As Bill Mitchell explains there are no simple market solutions.

  • Sean Hyland 18th Feb '19 - 8:30pm

    Never said it would be simple Peter Martin. Doesn’t mean we should have ignored it or be avoiding taking those steps that we can now to address the issues.

  • Green policies can’t just be about climate change. We have the pollution of our planet – the land, the sea and the atmosphere. We have the distraction of ecosystems everywhere. We are now in the position that the planet has to be actively managed if it is to be habitable by us in years to come.
    So we need to look at the way we bahave towards one another. A radical change in attitudes to education would help in this. My own opinion is that the importance given to competition is destructive. There is a need to co-operate to solve problems. This can be taught in schools and colleges. Or at least the reality of the situation can be explored. The strange behaviour over league tables for schools is an example. Great publicity is given to where exactly each school is, but none to whether the figures mean anything in reality.
    On our planet we have passed the point of no return. We now need to put away our childish behaviour and start to actively manage our planet so that our species can survive in the state we – or a substantial part of us – have become used to.

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