Jennifer Gunby
3 minute read

State and local governments can capitalize on the benefits provided by Green New Deal-style legislation.

There has been a great deal of attention following the November 2018 elections, and the announcement of the “Green New Deal.” At the federal level, a Green New Deal was introduced in February 2019 (House Resolution 109 and Senate Resolution 59). The resolution has spurred conversation and action from states and local governments to address economic inequality and climate risks.

Absent federal action, state and local governments can move forward with solutions. Not only can they more nimbly address the challenges, they are also spending significant amounts of taxpayer money on the consequences of lack of action—increased rates of asthma, vector-borne diseases, heart disease and cancer; impacts of extreme weather events; and diminished air and water quality.

Several states and cities have already moved forward with solving these challenges by introducing their own versions of a “Green New Deal,” and many others passed complementary policies that well aligned with the tenets of the Green New Deal.

Those packages that specifically use Green New Deal terminology include:

  • California: AB 1276, introduced in February
  • Los Angeles, California: Green New Deal / pLAn 2019
  • Connecticut: HB 6452, introduced in January
  • Maine: LD 1282, introduced in March; passed and signed in June
  • Minnesota: HF 2836, introduced in April
  • New York, New York: The Climate Mobilization Act, passed and signed in April; see also OneNYC 2050
  • North Carolina: H737, introduced in April
  • New York: A08429 / S06599, introduced in June; passed and signed in July
  • Rhode Island: H 5665, introduced in February, and RI S 0659, introduced in March
  • Virginia: HJ 724, introduced in January

These bills would put a significant portion of the country on the path toward net carbon neutrality and an improved economy. However, the majority are introduced bills and resolutions—they are not yet passed, actionable legislation.

Moving forward in the meantime

An alternate path forward for state and local governments to take realistic action without a jurisdiction-wide Green New Deal is to remedy their own impacts and lead by example.

A Green New Deal policy package that is customizable to emphasize local concerns can lead by example, focusing on government-owned buildings, infrastructure and assets, as well as incentives to guide the private sector in following suit. Such a package should be ambitious, cover transportation and buildings, and have an aggressive time frame.

While the exact policy package would vary based on the goals of each jurisdiction, a typical package could include:

  • All existing government buildings meeting high-performance standards
  • All new government buildings achieving net zero
  • Electrification of fleets
  • Clean energy mandates
  • Incentives for green industrial practices
  • Residential weatherization grants and training
  • Increased minimum wage for projects receiving public funds

State and local governments are well positioned to capitalize on the many economic and quality of life benefits provided by Green New Deal-style legislation. In the absence of federal action, USGBC believes it is imperative that local leaders take this opportunity to create better communities while addressing economic inequality and climate change.