Environment America Chairman Doug Phelps’ statement on the Green New Deal vote

Media Contacts

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate has voted 57-0 not to proceed with debate on the Green New Deal, a resolution designed to address the dangers caused by climate change. Most Senate Democrats, many of whom have publicly supported the resolution, voted “present” rather than voting “yea” or “nay” for further debate after Sen. Maj. Leader Mitch McConnell forced the procedural vote.

Doug Phelps, the chairman of Environment America, released this response:

“The Green New Deal is a great vehicle to bring more attention to the need for bold action on climate.  But as actual legislation it is non-news, because nothing dramatic is going to happen on climate in the Senate as currently constituted.

At the state level, however, a growing number of leaders across the political spectrum are moving forward to meet the challenge.

Last Friday, in what some called a “mini-Green New Deal,” New Mexico became the third state after California and Hawaii to commit itself to achieving 100 percent carbon-free electricity. Then on Saturday, California set a new record for generating the most solar power in a day, meeting 59 percent of its grid’s power needs. Earlier this month, Energy Information Administration data revealed that four states—North Dakota, Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma—generated more than 40 percent of their electricity from renewable sources in 2018.

What lessons can we draw from this contrast?

First, as has so often been the case in American history, the states, our “laboratories of democracy,” are where positive change begins. In a period of profound dysfunction at the federal level, advocates and activists for action on climate change should focus much of their energy and attention on state capitals, which can accelerate the nation’s essential shift to clean energy. Environment America helped lead the campaign for 100 percent clean energy legislation in California and New Mexico, and we’re supporting bills in nine other states.

Second, while the state clean energy bills we’re supporting share the boldness of the Green New Deal’s vision on climate and the environment, there’s a key difference between them. The federal plan seeks to not only address clean energy and climate change, but also a number of other social and economic issues. Building coalitions that can win bold action on energy and climate issues is difficult but possible, as evidenced by California, Hawaii and New Mexico.  It may not be possible if we try to address too many different, albeit interrelated, problems in one resolution.

There is no greater challenge than climate change. At the same time, there are real and immediate possibilities for ambitious action on climate and energy at the state level. Seizing these opportunities will reduce carbon emissions and increase momentum for federal action. We must build a coalition to tackle this ultimate threat, and we must build it with focus and organizing.”