Progressive climate activists who pursued the “inside strategy” to push Biden left will no doubt tout the remaining measures as the most ambitious climate policy passed in US history. But this is a very low bar. As climate journalist Kate Aronoff recently put it, the BBB is “a world-historic abdication of responsibility.” Even the central priority of the Sunrise Movement, the Civilian Climate Corps — part of the group’s public jobs vision of a Green New Deal — would receive $30 billion (or 9 percent of the tax credits). It appears more like a recharge of AmeriCorps than FDR’s original CCC.
So, what happened? Many progressives and climate advocates have attributed the new impasse to the depredations of one coal-money-soaked individual, Joe Manchin. But in truth, there was something wrong with the strategy from the beginning. Despite all evidence from the Obama years, Democrats and climate advocates have continued to put their faith in a legislative strategy rooted in a technocratic policy fix.
There was another option. Call it the Green New Deal (GND) strategy — the same Green New Deal Joe Biden flatly denounced in his campaign. The GND strategy is deceptively simple. Tie decarbonization directly to public investment and visible material benefits for the working class — and in doing so, stitch together the majoritarian bloc required to both pass a climate agenda and stave off the advance of the Right.
While advocates claim the CEPP is popular and would “create 8 million jobs,” it is not a GND-style policy that shouts: This will improve your life. It leaves the electricity system in the hands of (rightly despised) private investor-owned utilities. And although the CEPP is designed to drastically reduce emissions, there’s no indication its wonky fix would galvanize the mass support and public sector–led decarbonization we need to address the climate emergency.
We need policies that reduce emissions are quickly as possible. But we need to win and–perhaps more importantly– defend those policies. We'll never be able to sneak technocratic fixes through the back door. A strategy of obviously linking decarbonisation to improvements in the lives of the working class is the only way forward.