Against the backdrop of widespread flooding in several US states, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey of the Democratic Party have tabled a new economic reform policy in the US Congress called the Green New Deal.
According to them, the aim of this climate and jobs plan was to ensure that the US became carbon-neutral in less than a decade and to transform the economy.
The Green New Deal sets ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and converting to renewable energy in nearly all aspects of society, particularly existing buildings, transportation, and agriculture.
“It’s not to say you get rid of agriculture. It’s not to say we’re going to force everybody to go vegan or anything crazy like that. But, it’s to say, listen, we [have] got to address factory farming,” Ocasio-Cortez stressed in a recent interview.
Ocasio-Cortez and Markey said the new policy sought to address the methane emissions of cattle and other livestock by restricting industrial agriculture.
Beef production was responsible for 41% of livestock greenhouse gas emissions in the US, and livestock accounted for 14,5% of total global emissions, according to a special report released by CNN earlier this year.
Proponents of the Green New Deal emphasised that changing peoples’ diets from a meat-based diet to a more plant-based diet on a global scale could contribute 20% to the effort needed to reduce global temperatures, based on a recent report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Those in favour of the deal further argued that it could benefit the US agriculture sector by focusing on soil health, as the country’s current farming policy did not incentivise farmers to maintain soil health.
In addition, it had been reported that members of the Democratic Party believed that existing subsidies forced farmers to use outdated practices, which led to soil damage and erosion.
They suggested that the Green New Deal could achieve the opposite by incentivising the building up of organic matter, which would sequester atmospheric carbon, thus leading to more productive farms and lower carbon outputs.
Politicians and industry stakeholders in various states had, however, expressed concern about the negative impact the deal could have on the agriculture sector if passed.
A statement by Republican Party representatives for Iowa, said the deal could “endanger Iowa’s agriculture industry” where farming accounts for the vast majority of land use.
According to a report by the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business, beef and cattle were driving Colorado’s agricultural economy, while the Colorado Cattlemen Association reported that the state was home to 11 600 cattle farms, and was the fourth largest exporter of fresh and frozen beef in the US.
Members of the Republican Party in the US Congress also urged Democrats to carefully assess the feasibility of the deal and examine whether converting to 100% renewable energy in 10 years was a realistic goal.