US environmentalists welcome wins by 'Green New Deal' candidates

Thomson Reuters Foundation . New York | Update:

Democratic congressional candidate Abby Finkenauer walks to her polling location at St. Collumbkille Catholic Church during midterm elections in Dubuque, Iowa, US on 6 November 2018. Reuters File PhotoEnvironmentalists in the United States welcomed the election of candidates promising a 'Green New Deal', but cautioned that green goals would be hard to achieve under the administration of president Donald Trump.

Congress will include four new representatives who campaigned on a public works programme - similar to US president Franklin D Roosevelt's New Deal that helped end the 1930s depression - aimed at building a renewable energy economy.

The plan will need to be packaged differently, said University at Albany political scientist Brian Greenhill, given Trump's rollback of climate regulations and his dismissal of man-made global warming as a hoax.

"I can't imagine under the Trump administration that anything labelled 'a Green New Deal' would be successful, especially if it's framed in terms of climate change," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

However, he added, the plan seemed like a "no-brainer" after recent discussions between House Republicans and Democrats about infrastructure as an area where the two parties could find common ground.

Green victories came amid setbacks in Colorado, Arizona and Washington states, where voters rejected initiatives to curb fossil fuels by restricting drilling, putting a fee on carbon emissions, and mandating the wider use of renewable energy.

Jason Albritton, a director at the Nature Conservancy, said that despite being "disappointed" by the rejection of those state measures, addressing environmental issues by creating jobs is "a potential path to success".

The most vocal champion of the Green New Deal has been, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 29-year-old educator who won a seat in New York state.

Ocasio-Cortez has spoken of her vision of the Green New Deal as a programme comparable in scale to the "Marshall Plan", the US-backed programmed to rebuild Western Europe after World War Two, but focused on renewable energy.

But her campaign platform contains few concrete details on the topic and her representatives did not respond to a request for further information.

Cassady Craighill, a spokeswoman for Greenpeace, said the plan could prove a "powerful" concept, though she said that fleshing out details of "what a Green New Deal means should be a priority".

Other candidates sliding toward victory whose platform included the ambitious proposal were Icahn Omar, victorious in Minnesota, Rash Tlaib, who ran in Michigan, and Antonio Delgado, a Harvard-educated lawyer in New York.

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