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Activists push for adoption of Green New Deal (updated)

By Jeri Davis
Published: Last Updated on
Members of the Sunrise Movement advocate for the Green New Deal near an I-80 on-ramp Jan. 22, 2021.

Images by Isaac Hoops

As the sun was setting on Thursday evening, a small group of eight met outside of the Walgreens on Virginia Street where it crosses over Interstate-80. They carried banners reading “Green New Deal NOW,” “Livable Future” and “Good Paying Jobs.”

Stevie Applewhite and Val Weinzweig organized the demonstration. They’re the co-founders of the Reno chapter of a group called the Sunrise Movement, which advocates for the implementation of a Green New Deal. Applewhite is the Reno branch’s coordinator; Weinzweig runs communications for the group.

Stevie Applewhite, left, and Val Weinzweig of Reno's chapter of Sunrise Movement discuss plans they have for the coming Nevada legislative session.
Stevie Applewhite, left, and Val Weinzweig of Reno’s chapter of Sunrise Movement discuss plans they have for the coming Nevada legislative session. Image: Isaac Hoops

As they were preparing to take their banners and stand next to the eastbound I-80 on-ramp on Center Street, they explained their purpose. They and their fellow members believe adoption of a Green New Deal will create better economic outcomes for people across the country and a sustainable future in which politicians are not beholden to fossil fuel executives and their large pocketbooks.

Introduced by Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts, the Green New Deal is a congressional resolution that outlines a plan for tackling climate change, weaning the country off of fossil fuels and curbing greenhouse gas emissions while also guaranteeing new, well-paying jobs across clean energy industries. It’s worth noting that the resolution is nonbinding, meaning, even if it’s approved by Congress, nothing in the proposal would become law.

Applewhite and Weinzweig also said their group is looking ahead to the next session of the Nevada Legislature, which begins on Feb. 1, and are interested in lobbying for mining tax reform in the Silver State among other priorities.

According to its website, the Sunrise Movement is a youth movement to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process.

“We’re building an army of young people to make climate change an urgent priority across America, end the corrupting influence of fossil fuel executives on our politics, and elect leaders who stand up for the health and wellbeing of all people,” the site proclaims.The Reno chapter of the Sunrise Movement was started in May 2020, and its members have plans to work alongside more established local activism groups like the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada to achieve their aims.

Biden administration’s first climate actions 

New President Joseph Biden took several actions on climate change during his first days in office, including rejoining the Paris Climate Change Agreement and pulling a Trump-era permit for TC Energy Corporation’s Keystone XL oil pipeline that was intended to deliver crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

The United States will rejoin the Paris Climate Change Agreement on Feb. 19. That is 107 days after it was withdrawn from the agreement by the Trump Administration. Still, the U.S. will have to lay out a 2030 pledge that meets the agreement’s objective of containing warming to “well below 2 degrees Celsius” with efforts to limit at a 1.5 Celsius. (One degree of Celsius is the equivalent to 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. So, 1.5°C becomes a 2.7°F rise in average global temperatures, while a 2°C rise is a 3.6°F rise.)

According to a recent article in Scientific American, a steep cut to a 50% reduction below 2005 emissions levels could help the U.S. meet the 2030 pledge; however, “slim Democratic majorities in Congress mean the Biden team is likely to rely on state and local partners to help demonstrate emissions cuts, indicating a consultation process that could last months.”

The Keystone XL pipeline has been contentious for 12 years now. Work on the project was stalled for a year and a half until then-President Donald Trump released a presidential memorandum on Jan. 24, 2017 that announced a revival of that pipeline project and the Dakota Pipeline. The order he issued was intended to speed up the environmental review, which Trump described as an “incredibly cumbersome, long, horrible permitting process.”

Activists gathered beneath the Reno Arch on Virginia Street in 2015 to celebrate President Barack Obama’s Nov. 6, 2015 decision to reject the outlined Keystone XL Pipeline plan. In 2016, Tribal members from Nevada traveled to Cannon Ball, North Dakota, to protest the Dakota Pipeline.

The Biden administration also made clear that a review of the last four years of policymaking at the federal Environmental Protection Agency will be underway.

The Biden Administration’s climate plan can be reviewed here.

Update: This story has been updated to include recent actions by the incoming Biden administration related to climate change efforts.

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