We’ll need more than wind turbine and solar panels to build a true Green New Deal.Getty

For decades, Americans have been told that the country needs to experience short-term economic pain in an effort to preserve the planet for our children and grandchildren. Many see the only alternative, like William Nordhaus’ award-winning work on climate change argues, as focusing on the economy now and dealing with climate later. This framing is simply wrong: Economic prosperity and environmental sustainability are not at odds with each other; in fact, the two go hand-in-hand.

Though far from perfect, our country’s boldest progressive reforms, legislation, and programs were urgently enacted by FDR in the New Deal of the 1930’s to address the social and economic collapse brought on by the Great Depression. Today, our challenges are different but no less urgent. As wildfires ravage California, Puerto Rico still struggles to recover from hurricane Maria, and the country’s top scientific advisors have warned that by 2090 the GDP of the United States will shrink by 10% because of climate-related devastation — we need another New Deal: A Green New Deal.

Led by young people and some of the new bold Democratic members of Congress, Americans are mobilizing to shake up the country’s failed business-as-usual climate politics. Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) joined a protest in Nancy Pelosi’s office alongside members of the Sunrise Movement to call for government action on the climate crisis. On Monday, building on that momentum built by youth activists, Sen. Bernie Sanders hosted a climate town hall that helped position climate change as a serious priority for 2020 Democratic presidential contenders.

These driven and determined young activists are calling for a committee that will develop a Green New Deal by 2020. The Green New Deal calls for bold, ambitious policies that would make a real and long-lasting impact on the outlook for our planet, including moving toward 100% of national power generation from renewables; building a national, energy-efficient, “smart” grid; and decarbonizing, repairing and improving transportation and other infrastructure. The proposal would also make “green” technology, industry, expertise, products and services a major export of the United States, with the aim of becoming the undisputed international leader in helping other countries transition to completely carbon neutral economies and bringing about a global Green New Deal.

The Green New Deal would simultaneously combat climate change and economic insecurity in the United States. Building on the spirit of the original New Deal– a deal that built the American middle class –  the proposal leverages the power of government as a force for public good to create economic and climate justice that the country desperately needs. Such a proposal takes climate science seriously: it is built with the understanding that the country needs to reduce its carbon emissions by 45 percent in just twelve years, a task that is unachievable without government action.

The fossil fuel industry is deeply hostile to the idea that economic prosperity and environmental protection can be mutually reinforcing. By presenting this false dichotomy , they’re able to end the debate before it even begins. After all, who can be anti-job in a moment of rising precarious employment and stagnant wages? Who can ask a parent to choose between the assumed dichotomy of employment with a fracking company or the inability to send their children to school? The peddling of such austerity climate politics has alienated far too many working-class Americans from the climate movement, and promoted individual protectionism over collective defense of the public good.

But those who believe in bold action on climate have the will of the American people on our side. According to Data for Progress, a left-leaning think tank, and  the Progressive Change Institute, the idea of a Green New Deal is popular among the American electorate who show strong support for the creation of “millions of clean-energy jobs.”

A Green New Deal  would build on the foundation of the original New Deal, but with broader, more equitable inclusion. This time, frontline community voices, the voices of women, people of color, and the young, are driving the work. After all, redefining who writes the rules is essential as we confront the most pressing challenges of the 21st century. When we change who writes the rules, centering the voices of those most impacted by the climate crisis and rising inequality, we alter what future gets built. On both counts, we end up in a stronger place.

Much like the climb out of the Great Depression, moving forward on legislation to accomplish the objectives of a Green New Deal is a daunting task—but it’s one the country must not only embrace but boldly commit to. Building on FDR’s progressive legacy, a Green New Deal provides a framework for 21st century industrial policy – policy that can create jobs, revitalize communities, rebuild American infrastructure, and strengthen the U.S. economy, all the while protecting our communities from the threat of climate change – today and for generations to come.

This article was co-authored with Katie Kirchner, the National Director of the Roosevelt Network.

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