For the last several months, a coalition of labor, community, and environmental groups have been meeting to help forge an alliance in support of a local version of the Green New Deal. In the midst of this process, we have all been hit with the COVID-19 crisis, and, as we watched the disaster capitalists seeking to turn this dire moment into an opportunity to profit, we were moved to suggest a better way forward.
It is clear to many of us doing this work that the lack of preparedness by the federal government, the science denial, the inadequate response to the health and economic needs of everyday Americans, and the deep inequities that this crisis exposed foreshadow what will be an even more catastrophic failure if we are unable to marshal the will and resources necessary to address the coming climate crisis. We must do much better.
The good news is that the opportunity that this crisis presents is a chance to emerge from it by building a better city, state, and country. Just as the New Deal helped desperate Americans in the midst of the Great Depression by raising everyone up and helping to create a more economically just society for working people, a Green New Deal can bring us out of the despair of the current moment by offering a better, more fair and sustainable future.
In that spirit, last week the San Diego Green New Deal Alliance, in our first collective act, has sent a letter to San Diego governmental leaders at all levels outlining our recommendations for federal, state, and local COVID-19 relief programs that will address the health, safety, and economic needs of everyday people while moving us toward a Zero Carbon future.
See the letter below:
SAN DIEGO GREEN NEW DEAL ALLIANCE
April 9, 2020
Subject: San Diego Green New Deal Alliance Recommendations for federal, state, and local COVID-19 relief programs
Dear Honorable Elected Officials,
The San Diego Green New Deal Alliance is an affiliation of community, environmental, labor, and social justice organizations committed to ensuring the San Diego region achieves a zero carbon economy by 2035. The Alliance is committed to reaching this target through a fair transition for workers and communities of concern, the creation of good family-supporting union jobs, and the development of affordable and inclusive communities powered by 100 percent clean energy.
While we appreciate the effort to bring immediate economic aid to Americans through the recently-passed federal stimulus package, we remain concerned that the effort does not do enough to address the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on everyday people, and instead provides massive giveaways to corporations. We are also concerned that the stimulus missed an opportunity to pivot toward a clean energy economy and leave behind the destructive path of our current fossil-fuel economy.
Moving forward, it is imperative that future stimulus bills and relief programs work to prioritize the health and livelihoods of everyday people, as well as tackle the long-term emergency our country faces as a result of climate change. For more specific policy recommendations for future federal stimulus packages, we encourage you to read the Green Stimulus letter, which is supported by a growing list of organizations and individuals.
Recommendations for Relief Programs in the San Diego Region
Similar to stimulus and relief programs at the federal level, we believe that relief programs in San Diego should address the health, safety, and economic needs of everyday people, as well as advance a just transition to a zero carbon future at this pivotal moment.
Most immediately, San Diego families need rent and mortgage relief, as well as the cancellation of utility, medical, and student debt accrued during the crisis.
In the long term, we are faced with the choice of perpetuating the fossil fuel economy, or investing in a sustainable future. We urge you to ensure that public investments are directed in a way that both jump-starts economic recovery and transitions San Diego to a just, zero carbon region.
To realize this vision, relief programs should advance five key objectives:
- Commit and chart the path to a zero carbon region by 2035;
- Ensure a fair transition for workers and communities of concern;
- Create good family-supporting union jobs;
- Prioritize Communities of Concern in investments, using tools such as CalEnviroScreen and the Climate Equity Index;
- Develop affordable and inclusive communities.
To achieve these goals, we recommend prioritizing investments in jobs, infrastructure, and communities that advance initiatives such as, but not limited to:
- Achieving 100 percent clean electricity by 2035
- Democratizing control over energy systems through solutions such as Community Choice Energy, community and rooftop solar, and microgrids
- Promoting efforts to increase energy efficiency
- Building an electric, regional world-class transit system
- Providing no-cost transit for youth
- Building affordable social housing near jobs and transit
- Redesigning our streets to increase capacity for biking and walking
- Reducing vehicle miles travelled through alternatives such as telecommuting
- Restoring and caring for our open spaces, bays, beaches, oceans, and natural habitats
- Planting and caring for a robust and healthy urban forest
- Promoting carbon farming, regenerative agriculture, and community gardens
- Striving for full participation of communities of concern in decision-making processes
- Learning from and amplifying the knowledge of indigenous communities in sustainable practices
- Offering severance packages and the guarantee of comparable or better jobs with full benefits for workers who may be permanently displaced in a sustainable energy economy
Moving forward, the San Diego Green New Deal Alliance will host educational forums, town halls, and other public events across our vibrant and diverse communities to detail these priorities and help our region navigate from the disaster of the COVID-19 crisis toward a future that is sustainable, equitable, and prosperous.
We are experiencing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to remake our economy and our environment to benefit the health, safety and prosperity of all San Diego families. We stand ready to help offer ideas, insights and solutions in concert with San Diegans across the region as we rebuild our economy from the ground up.
Note: Jim Miller is on the advisory board for the San Diego Green New Deal Alliance representing the American Federation of Teachers, Local 1931