This is an excerpt from Data for Progress. It was written by Julian Brave and Sean McElwee:
The Green New Deal aims to leverage the full resources of the United States economy—public and private—to take on twin crises of climate and inequality. While taxation, regulation and investment (and the occasional cow fart and mythical train to Hawaii) have featured prominently in most debates about the Green New Deal, commentators and wonks have largely overlooked one of the less sexy but more impactful policy levers: government purchasing power. We at Data for Progress believe that a key part of any Green New Deal—and one that we could begin implementing in many states right now—is the “Buy Clean” standard.
Buy Clean is a procurement policy that would require the government to take climate pollution and labor protection into account when determining which corporations win government contracts. The federal government is the world’s single largest customer—and the dollars it spends are yours as a taxpayer. We can leverage the billions of dollars spent every year on federal contracts to incentivize clean and green investments while empowering the unions and workers that brought us the weekend and the welfare state. And while the legislative path to a Green New Deal runs through a tough senate map and 60-vote filibuster, we can start pushing for Buy Clean right now.
As an emissions policy, Buy Clean is especially powerful because it can help federal and state governments address pollution upstream in the supply chain and beyond their own borders—helping close what is effectively a loophole wherein products like steel, cement and clothing are produced in countries with weak regulations and consumed by nations like ours with stronger environmental standards.
This is a winning proposition for proponents of more Rooseveltian approaches to climate legislation. It is actionable, it reduces emissions, it reinvests in clean industry, it can empower unions—and it can build new coalitions. In 2017, a coalition of labor and environmental groups in California led the charge for the nation’s first Buy Clean program. This is, effectively, a test-case for a similar federal policy under the banner of a Green New Deal.