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Climate Change Environment

Organizing for a halt to Fossil Fuels


Greens are frontrunners for true climate action

By Mark Dunlea, Green Party of New York State

Mark Dunlea

Green Party delegations from half a dozen states jointly marched at the April 29th climate change march in DC. Many more party groups participated in local marches both that weekend and in the prior weekend marches in support of science. The Green Party remains the national opposition party of climate action.

Trump’s reckless policies on climate change and the environment in general, which reflect the opinions of many Republican leaders, shouldn’t obscure the fact neither major party will solve the global climate crisis.

Democrats acknowledge the crisis, but the 2016 Democratic platform failed to endorse carbon taxes, a halt to fracking and drilling, and other environmental and economic measures necessary to cut emissions and stop the advance of global warming. Both parties and their candidates receive support from the fossil-fuel industry.

Resistance to Trump began during the election and has only strengthened since then. The Green Party called for mass public resistance in reaction to Trump’s announcement he is permitting the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines to move forward. “The public protests, on-site camps, direct action, citizens’ lobbying efforts, and lawsuits that persuaded President Obama to reject the KXL and halt the DAPL must resume, with appeals for congressional action to reverse President Trump’s decision,” said Robin Laverne Wilson, 2016 Green nominee for the U.S. Senate in New York and co-chair of the Green Party Black Caucus.

“The pipelines are a danger both locally and globally,” said Chris Blankenhorn, co-chair of the Green Party of the United States. “Locally, the risk of spills and explosions threatens human lives, health, and the environment, as numerous incidents have proved. Globally, pipelines contribute to the release of greenhouse gases that are heating up the atmosphere.”

The climate crisis unfortunately is tailor made for the Green Party. Radical climate action is needed, not the timid bandaids advanced by the liberal/progressive wing of the Democrats. The Greens for instance were demanding a ban on fracking for years while the democratic-party-lite environmental groups were pushing for a moratorium. And climate justice requires that action on climate be tied to the fight on other social issues, starting with embracing the movements for economic, racial and civil justice. Avoiding climate disruption will require system change in the political, economic and social systems.

The Green New Deal (GND), initially developed in Europe, has been a centerpiece of the two recent Green Party presidential campaigns by Jill Stein, as well as by many Green candidates for state and local office. Howie Hawkins rode support for the GND to a 10 percent showing in the polls, though election day results were half of that. The Green presidential campaign also built support for the Break Free from Fossil Fuels movement, calling to a halt to the build out of the fossil fuel infrastructure.

The GND starts with transitioning to renewable energy by 2030—not the 2050 target embraced by more mainstream groups. The GND is a comprehensive plan to solve the accelerating climate crisis by converting to a Green economy that provides millions of new jobs, universal health care, and financial security for all Americans and makes wars for oil obsolete. The millions of new net jobs created through wind, solar and efficiency would be supplemented by a massive public jobs initiative to build a sustainable economy.

Green Party activists across the country are organizing on all fronts to take action — stopping pipelines like DAPL; demanding commitments to develop off-shore wind; pushing for energy democracy that embraces public/community ownership, a Just Transition, and control of our energy future; supporting regenerative agriculture; seeking expansion of mass transit and a rapid transition to non-polluting vehicles; pushing for mandatory energy building retrofits; making polluters pay for fouling our air by burning fossil fuels; divesting public and private investments from fossil fuels; restoring wetlands and natural barriers rather than rebuilding in flood plains

The Green Party supports A Just Transition, a strategy to preserve jobs lost in transitioning from fossil fuels, targeting communities that will suffer most from climate change while providing support to workers and communities presently reliant upon fossil fuels.

The big climate change win of the San­ders’ campaign was to get the Democratic Party national platform to call for a national climate mobilization equivalent to that at the beginning of WWII. Even with Trump and his gang of client deniers in charge, the Democratic response as expected falls far short of their platform rhetoric.

The Senate Democratic party bill (100 by 50 Act) that Sanders released a few days before the climate march outlined a timid timeline and benchmarks to get to 100% clean energy by 2050 that is far short of what is needed to avoid catastrophic climate change. It ducked on a carbon tax and ignored agriculture. The one bright spot was a relatively brisk call to halt fossil fuel infrastructure. The legislation proposes cap-and-trade schemes with incentives for energy providers and vehicle manufacturers for a gradual shift towards renewable energy and efficiency that don’t begin to take effect until 2030. It sets 2050 as the year for ending reliance on fossil fuel energy. Both goals are far too late and too incremental to curb the advance of climate change.

Democratic Party elected officials and their allies in the big environment groups largely ignore that the developing countries prevailed in Paris to lower the target goal to cap global warming from 2 degrees Celsius to 1.5 degrees. Many of the policies across the nation being touted as “historic” reflect the older, higher targets. Getting to 1.5 degrees require greenhouse gas emissions to occur twice as fast (e.g., in the 7 to 9% annual range).

Neal Gale, Green candidate for Judge of Elections in Abington, Pennsylvania said, “The Trump Administration has made a clear choice—a short-term boost for the extracted fuels industry and business as usual, over a balanced ecosystem for our planet. This is not President Trump’s decision to make. The stakes are too high, the consequences too grave. We’re encouraging activism across the U.S. to counteract the effects of Mr. Trump’s appalling decision.”

Mark Dunlea

Mark Dunlea has been working for social justice issues for decades. A co-founder of the Green Party of New York, he spent thirty years working for the Hunger Action Network of New York and is the chair of the Green Education and Legal Fund. A former State Head Organizer of ACORN and co-founder of the Albany, NY chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, he was the 2018 Green Party candidate for NY State Comptroller. Dunlea is the author of Madame President: The Unauthorized Biography of the First Green Party President and co-author of Asleep At the Wheel: A Study of the Performance of Local Departments of Social Services.

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