The Green New Deal has captured the imagination of the country and has catapulted climate change to a top 2020 election issue. It is the first time that our lawmakers have accurately captured the scale and scope of the climate crisis and offered a strong framework to both address its felt effects and to eradicate its root causes. As Christians, we recognize the biblical principles that are embedded in the Green New Deal’s many aspirations, including justice (Micah 6:8, Amos 5:24, Isaiah 1:17), neighbor-love (Matthew 22:34-40), and meaningful protection of the earth (Genesis 2:15). These are principles that Y.E.C.A. believes must be present in any future climate policy, and they are values that Christians and all people of good will can and must affirm.
Yet much difficult work remains to turn these values into reality. For all the news made by the Green New Deal these many months, it remains a nonbinding resolution co-sponsored exclusively by members of one political party. Symbolically potent, no doubt, but legislatively impotent. If the whole of Congress unanimously passed the Green New Deal today, tomorrow would still look the same. If we are actually going to secure the principles outlined in the Green New Deal, we will need bipartisan legislation.
Legislation, because laws are the only way to enact the kind of wide-ranging economic and social transformation that the current climate crisis demands. Laws inoculate our progress from the partisan whims of our current hyperpolarized politics. Executive orders and agency rules have their place, but they can be easily overturned or reversed with each new swing of the electoral pendulum.
Bipartisan, because climate chaos impacts all of us, and our solutions need to reflect all of us. There is growing consensus across the political spectrum that climate change demands an urgent response and that there are solutions we can all get behind. Working now to forge bipartisan policy consensus will grow our movement and will save us from having to defend any policy wins we may achieve. We’ve all seen in recent years how passing partisan legislation—be it healthcare or tax reform—has only deepened our hyperpartisanship and has required precious time and effort to defend after power invariably changes hands. We don’t have time for distraction or defense. Durable policy now is our only option, and durable policy is bipartisan.
We welcome the principles of the Green New Deal as a helpful framework that centers communities of color, displaced workers, frontline communities, and indigenous rights, and we are committed to working toward translating these principles into viable, bipartisan bills.
To that end, we call on Congress to immediately take up and pass bipartisan climate legislation. Two options immediately available include the RECLAIM Act, which will achieve equity and a just transition for workers in Appalachia as they move to a low-carbon economy, and the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, which will achieve an economy-wide price on carbon to accelerate the transition to 100% clean energy. Both are currently before Congress and both enjoy bipartisan support. Neither by itself is enough, but they are both important parts of the solution, necessary components of turning the Green New Deal’s principles into a reality.