Americans Love the Green New Deal, but Colorado Democrats Aren’t So Sure

Americans Love the Green New Deal, but Colorado Democrats Aren’t So Sure
e2.org/Richard Wilson
In a few short months, the so-called Green New Deal has gone from an obscure demand of young activists staging sit-ins at the U.S. Capitol to a full-fledged resolution with support from over seventy members of Congress and at least five major 2020 presidential candidates. But for all the attention and support the plan has received across the country — it’s polling at 81 percent approval, according to one December survey — it’s lagging behind with one key constituency: Colorado elected officials.

Led by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, and Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, a group of congressional Democrats introduced the Green New Deal resolution outside the Capitol on Thursday, February 7. Among the key early co-sponsors of the resolution was Representative Joe Neguse of Boulder, who was also one of nine Democrats named on Thursday to the new Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.

But Neguse is the only member of Colorado’s congressional delegation who has endorsed the proposal, which calls for massive government investments “to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers” within a ten-year period. It’s an aspirational goal, and only a non-binding resolution, with corresponding legislation still reportedly months away. But Neguse’s fellow Colorado Democrats aren’t signing on, at least for now.

“Congressman Crow is reviewing the resolution,” says Anne Feldman, communications director for Representative Jason Crow. “He believes climate change is a real threat to our planet and shares many of the goals outlined in the resolution.”

“Congressman Perlmutter is reviewing the resolution, but it includes many of the values he believes in and has supported for many years,” says Ashley Verville, communications director for Representative Ed Perlmutter.

A spokesman for Representative Diana DeGette did not respond to requests for comment.

Today, February 8, activists from a coalition of environmental and social-justice groups plan to deliver petitions to DeGette and Crow’s district offices, calling on them to support the proposal.

“We’d like to see a halt to new fossil-fuel extraction and subsidies, and we’d like to see the decarbonization of the agriculture and transportation sectors,” says Deb McNamara, campaign coordinator for climate activist group 350 Colorado. “Ultimately, we want a fair and just transition off of fossil fuels.”

The Green New Deal has become an important early litmus test for 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls, and its nine Senate co-sponsors include major candidates like Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren — but not Colorado's Michael Bennet, who is rumored to be considering a run of his own. And when asked last month by an Iowa voter if he supports the proposal, former governor John Hickenlooper's response was noncommittal: "I think so," he said, according to the AP's Nick Riccardi.

Former state senator Mike Johnston, who declared his candidacy for the U.S. Senate last week, announced a “Green New Deal” plan of his own on Thursday — one that departs significantly from the sweeping proposal made by Markey and Ocasio-Cortez. Johnston’s plan calls for a twenty-year timeline for decarbonization rather than ten, and “debt-­free higher education or job training” rather than a green-jobs guarantee.

“If we lead with courage, we can achieve a 100% clean-energy and carbon-free economy by 2040 that will create tens of thousands of Colorado jobs and protect our planet for future generations,” Johnston said in a press release announcing his plan.

Climate policy has taken on a new urgency in Democratic circles following a major report released last October by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in which scientists warned policymakers that global greenhouse gas emissions must be cut nearly in half by 2030 in order to avoid catastrophic warming levels of 1.5º C or higher. Despite years of such warnings, global emissions rose again in 2018, and U.S. emissions surged by more than 3 percent, the largest jump in more than two decades.

Another 2020 Senate candidate, former speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives Andrew Romanoff, officially announced his run on Thursday, and highlighted his support for progressive priorities including the Markey-Ocasio-Cortez resolution. “I don’t think we can move fast enough to de-carbonize the economy and to protect the workers who are affected by this transition,” says Romanoff.

Of course, Republicans are engaging in climate-policy discussions, too. On Thursday, they reacted to Romanoff's support of the Green New Deal by accusing him of wanting to ban cows.

350 Denver and other groups will deliver petitions in support of the Green New Deal to DeGette’s district office at 12:15 p.m. today, February 8. Find out more on the 350 Denver Facebook page.

Update, February 8:
We've added Andrew Romanoff's comment about supporting the Green New Deal.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Chase Woodruff is a staff writer at Westword interested in climate change, the environment and money in politics.
Contact: Chase Woodruff