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The surprising way Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is influencing UK politics

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Hannah Mendelsohn
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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez smiling

While we’re all obsessed with AOC’s beauty regime, the US superstar congresswoman has started influencing UK politicians, and it might just save the world

With parliament in deadlock over you-know-what, it might seem like nothing can unite UK politicians. But after school children striking, Extinction Rebellion protests bringing London to a standstill and Greta Thunberg giving MPs a rousing speech, it looks like some of our elected representatives are finally realising that climate change desperately needs action and collaboration.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, former Labour leader Ed Miliband and former Tory MP Laura Sandys have come together calling for a UK Green New Deal, and if the concept sounds familiar to you already, it’s likely thanks to rising Democrat superstar Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Ocasio-Cortez, who is the star of new Netflix documentary Knock Down the House, has made the Green New Deal one of her key political proposals after introducing it as a resolution to congress in February alongside fellow democrat Senator Ed Markey.

AOC’s proposal is designed to combat both inequality and climate change in the US by mobilising the country so it is carbon neutral within ten years. This ambitious target would be achieved by many means including upgrading infrastructure, transitioning to renewable energy sources and bolstering forests to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  

It’s not just the climate that her Green New Deal aims to help either. The deal would also empower communities who are most at risk from climate change by bringing them into the conversation and, among other things, creating guaranteed jobs, introducing free higher education, and providing access to affordable, safe housing.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez launches the Green New Deal
Green New Deal: AOC and Ed Markey's ambitious policy has captured the attention of UK politcians

The dramatic policy has sparked debate in both the major US parties. In response to Republican push-back on the deal AOC made a passionate speech saying: “This is serious. This should not be a partisan issue. This is about our constituents and all of our lives.” She added: “We have the choice to lower the cost now because I can tell you the cost of pursuing a Green New Deal will be far less than the cost of not passing it.”

The Green New Deal has made headlines on both sides of the Atlantic because of its ambition and scale (and no doubt down to AOC’s exciting career and charisma as well). Now it is capturing the attention of our politicians, uniting them across party lines to support the launch of a new Environmental Justice Commission and call for an equally extensive deal here.

Surprisingly, the concept of a Green New Deal was actually developed in the UK in 2008 as a response to the financial crisis. It didn’t catch on at the time, but after AOC brought the concept into the global spotlight it’s picking up traction again.

The idea is based on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, implemented after the Great Depression in 1929 to create jobs on a massive scale and get the US economy back up and running. A similar scale of change is required for climate change because as Miliband, Lucas and Sandys highlight in their announcement, science says we only have 11 years left to take decisive action.

In their piece in The Guardian, the UK advocates for a Green New Deal have called for similar changes to AOC. They want to see “a carbon army of workers” who will transform homes, transport, energy sources and manufacturing to cut the UK’s carbon emissions before it’s too late. They say their deal should bring two things to the country: “jobs and hope”.

While they recognise that their proposal may be criticised, they say that there is “economic and societal advantage” for such dramatic action. If anything can reunite the divided UK, these politicians believe the Green New Deal is the way. As they say in their announcement: “Failure is not an option”.

Image: Getty