AOC: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Impact

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez AOC
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC)

The Green New Deal, AOC‘s leading policy addressing climate change, will be carefully analysed in order to determine its impact. The extent to which it was implemented, its effects, and the degree to which AOC’s involvement is productive in the environmental fight for action will be evaluated. 

National Impact 

The Green New Deal was Ocasio-Cortez’s debut piece of legislation in 2019, and she reintroduced it every Congress after. It lays out a plan for ensuring that new initiatives support its broad objectives of generating well-paying employment, advancing social justice, and addressing climate change with the urgency and scope required by scientific evidence. Despite her multiple attempts, The Green New Deal has yet to pass through legislation at the federal level. Faced with strong opposition from the Republican side of Congress, it has been widely criticised for being an expensive and overly ambitious plan that offers rugged solutions to the problem of global warming. The lack of bipartisan support and cost concerns regarding implementing new infrastructure, renewable energy, and social programs have stalled the Green New Deal from becoming law, thus, reaching its full potential. Reaching a conclusive policy that can tackle the growing environmental problem has become a battle between political parties in which the focus has turned to the opposition rather than the rapidly growing issue of global warming. Although the Green New Deal has been legislated, it is essential to mention its effect on the conversation and policy-making regarding climate change. Although the comprehensive plan to reform the energy, transportation, and other sectors was recently rejected by the Senate, it continues to be a political flashpoint. AOC has been successful in bringing up significant issues and promoting progressive change. Her  promotion of the Green New Deal has created a national conversation on the pressing need to combat climate change and transition to a clean energy economy. 

AOC’s contentious advocacy and consistent constraint challenges have made her a target for the media and opposition. Despite attaining widespread attention across the political spectrum, AOC’s policy agenda has come under fire for being overly ambitious and needing more workable implementation strategies. Opponents claim that ideas like Medicare for All and a federal employment guarantee would need significant tax increases, present difficulties in funding, and be impractical on a large scale. These worries have increased scepticism and opposition from individuals who think her proposals are idealistic or impractical from an economic standpoint. Public opinion has periodically become divided due to AOC’s assertive and aggressive style. As of April 2021, 45% of Democrats strongly supported the Green New Deal, while only 10% of Republicans did and 36% strongly opposed it. She has drawn criticism from conservatives for being loud and active on social media, which has increased scrutiny and negative media attention. 

The Green New Deal was received with joyful scorn by the GOP, who even mocked it with a right-wing alternative known as the Green Real Deal. According to Republican reasoning, the concept was so absurd that continuing to discuss it would only hurt Democrats. President Trump tweeted in February of last year, “I think it is very important for the Democrats to press forward with their Green New Deal.” 

Bipartisan cooperation has been hampered by this division, which may have also reduced the likelihood of her initiatives being implemented successfully. However, in a study of respondents conducted in July 2019, the Green New Deal received a better approval rating than a wealth tax, a prohibition on semi-automatic assault weapons, and free college tuition. The proposal’s unexpected political reach compelled Republicans to start formulating their own strategy. 

“What the Green New Deal did is bring the issue of climate change to greater prominence,” said Carlos Curbelo, a Republican who opposed climate change and lost his House seat in South Florida to Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections. Thus, it became more difficult for conservatives to dismiss the problem.

State/local impact 

The triple objectives of promoting climate action, improving economic opportunity, and advancing social fairness are shared by Green New Deal policy proposals. This multifaceted strategy acknowledges the need for social, economic, and environmental reform to reduce the harms and costs of climate change and advance toward a more just society. A new generation of frameworks for addressing climate change that goes beyond cost-based, efficiency-focused economic approaches to more holistic frameworks that connect renewable energy development with financial support for frontline communities and social justice has emerged. 

Following this approach to climate change, Green New Deal-inspired policies have emerged throughout the country. Despite not becoming federal law, many American cities and states have made substantial efforts to combat climate change and develop green jobs through a Green New Deal approach. Broad local coalitions of labour, environmental, and racial justice groups are securing state and local level laws that have helped lay the groundwork for a potential federal Green New Deal. Building retrofitting, boosting the use of renewable energy, promoting clean manufacturing, and switching to clean electricity sources are some of the initiatives. These regulations support job growth in the renewable energy and green infrastructure industries while reducing climate pollution, enhancing air quality, and advancing environmental justice. 

Some of the states that have implemented Green New Deal-inspired policies include Maine, Los Angeles, Illinois and California. Maine passed a “Green New Deal” law to attain 80% renewable energy by 2040, generate jobs in manufacturing and renewable energy, and offer low-income households access to inexpensive solar electricity. “L.A.’s Green New Deal” to support clean energy jobs, improve the city’s dismal air quality and meet challenging climate targets. The Future Energy Jobs Act in Illinois gives low-income families priority access to solar energy, creates jobs in solar installation, and establishes energy-efficiency standards to cut down on pollution and lower energy prices. And California, where the state pledged to use only clean energy and enacted the Buy Clean programme, promoting clean production and financially supporting products that protect the environment. 

As an addition to the local-level impact of the Green New Deal, on April 2023, Senator Markey and Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez reintroduced a Green New Deal resolution. The resolution aims to help municipalities make the most of the grant opportunities in the Inflation Reduction Act, the largest government investment in climate change to date. The lawmakers produced an implementation guide on the fourth anniversary of the Green New Deal.  

International Impact

The Green New Deal has already changed how climate policy is implemented at various levels of government in numerous nations worldwide. Growing momentum for policies that simultaneously address climate change’s economic, social, and environmental aspects has been a direct consequence of introducing the Green New Deal. AOC is well known for supporting harsh climate policies that have influenced the US conversation on climate change. Her influence can be seen in the Biden administration’s increased focus on global warming. In order to address both economic injustice and climate change, AOC’s support for aggressive climate goals, such as net-zero emissions by 2030, led the Democratic Party and Biden to set even more aggressive objectives, as demonstrated in their vows to reduce emissions and observing the Paris Agreement. 

The importance of the climate crisis was increased for the Democratic Party and the Biden administration by AOC’s persistent climate advocacy. Her capacity to energise the public and enlist young activists propelled climate policy to the fore and influenced policies in other industries. AOC enhanced climate advocacy by working with grassroots movements, and the government recognised this by engaging with and incorporating their demands. AOC’s outspoken participation in public forums and in Congress has aided in opening up the conversation about climate change. This has raised public awareness and affected public opinion, which has made the Biden administration more likely to act in a climate-conscious environment. 

AOC’s climate activism essentially served as a catalyst for increased activism within the Biden administration, guiding policy conversations, goal-setting, urgency, grassroots involvement, and legislative initiatives, all of which increased the importance of climate change on a national scale.

Systemic Challenges to the Green New Deal

The Green New Deal is starting a crucial and essential discussion about the necessity of addressing climate change. It catalyses a strategy to speed up meeting climate justice with social justice, from proposing different strategies, such as a carbon price that encourages businesses to cut emissions and unleash market forces to propel the most effective solutions to scale; to increasing research funding, maintaining policies that promote energy efficiency, and protecting marginalised and indigenous communities from the alarming consequences of climate change. Nonetheless, the Green New Deal as a policy faces too many barriers to be implemented. 

Inflation Reduction Act

Despite the legislative challenges around the implementation of the Green New Deal, AOC has managed to implement various elements of the Green New Deal into other pieces of legislation. Most notably, Ocasio-Cortez’s support for the most significant climate law in US history, the Inflation Reduction Act, positioned her as an advocate for climate justice in the US. 

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which aims to reduce inflation and solve a variety of issues, was signed into law by  President Biden, and AOC managed to secure some elements of her Green New Deal in the bill. The IRA, like AOC’s proposal, emphasises the need to decarbonise the nation in order to meet the Paris Agreement targets. In order to increase consumer access to renewable energy sources, the measure provides a number of tax credits and other financial incentives, with a concentration on lower- to middle-income consumers. These advantages include supporting and boosting the affordability of heat pumps and other electric-powered residential infrastructure. 

The IRA not only shares the Green New Deal’s objective of reducing the nation’s carbon footprint, but it also shares the objective of doing so while providing for low-income consumers. Some measures taken in the IRA that mirror the Green New Deal include lowering energy costs and reducing carbon emissions by 40% before 2030. The IRA does not only focus on the problem of climate change but on the problem of economic inequality as well. This is demonstrated in measures such as allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and lowering ACA healthcare premiums. The Green New Deal is also present in  the ways in which the IRA aims to take the burden of combating climate change from financially vulnerable communities. Some examples of how they are taking this approach include addressing tax loopholes and upholding the tax code by making the largest corporations and the highest income groups pay their fair share while preventing extra taxes on families earning $400,000 or less and small businesses.

AOC’s success with embedding climate legislation into the Inflation Reduction Act shows her to be a shrewd politician, able to adapt to the constraints of the policy-making environment to fulfil her political agenda through other means than her landmark policy proposal. Indeed, with the Green New Deal unlikely to pass through Congress in the near future due to political dissent, it will be key for AOC to implement her policy proposals through various other legislative means. As such, AOC is not only a prominent voice with ambitious ideas in support of climate justice but is also displaying growth in her ability to transition from activist to politician, capable of passing meaningful pieces of legislation at the federal level.

IExRAIA Summer Research Program:

This article is an excerpt from a report on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez produced as part of a research program RAIA on climate leaders. For a full picture of AOC’s climate leadership read the full report. This project was fully financed by IE University’s School of Politics, Economics and Global Affairs.

Authors: Maria Romero & Felipa Eichel

Editor: David Salinger

Project Lead: Joshua Dario Hasenstab


The shared Account of RAIA members and Alumni