Land Use, Markets, and the Green New Deal: a Conversation With Rhiana Gunn-Wright

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Its foes claim the Green New Deal will take away your hamburgers, ground your flights, and remove environmental markets from the palate of options available for meeting the climate challenge.

Reality kind of agrees with those measures, but the Green New Deal doesn’t mention them.

Instead, it sets targets and focuses on investment in new technologies, including those that help forests, farms, and fields absorb greenhouse gasses.

As for market mechanisms, Green New Deal policy adviser Rhiana Gunn-Wright says they’re key to meeting the climate challenge.

“We take markets very seriously,” she explains in the latest episode of the Bionic Planet podcast, which is available on iTunes, Radio Public, Stitcher, or wherever you access podcasts.

Markets As Tools, Not Masters

Gunn-Wright is the policy director for New Consensus, which is a non-governmental policy shop that helped draft the Green New Deal resolution. The NGD failed in the US Senate, but New Consensus is now working with the offices of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey to create climate legislation.

The organization emerged as a reaction against market-led reforms that many believe have exacerbated inequality, but Gunn-Wright says it’s not opposed to the use of market mechanisms within a regulatory apparatus.

“Instead of saying it’s the job of markets to solve all problems, we’re saying let’s take a really thoughtful stance,” she says. “We’re asking, ‘Where are markets most useful? What kind of innovation do we want them to drive? What are the guardrails that we want them to operate within?’”

Natural Climate Solutions in the Green New Deal

Research consistently shows that ‘natural climate solutions‘, or better land management, can deliver roughly one-third of the mitigation needed to meet the Paris Climate Agreement’s 2-degree Celsius target, but that such solutions also draw just 3 percent of dedicated climate finance and 1 percent of media coverage.

Land use nonetheless features prominently Green New Deal, which explicitly recommends “removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and reducing pollution by restoring natural ecosystems through proven low-tech solutions that increase soil carbon storage, such as land preservation and afforestation,” but also by working “collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector…by investing in sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health.”

Gunn-Wright says that her team, like most policymakers, have focused more on technological solutions than nature-based ones, but that nature-based solutions are now a key focus of their research.

“It’s not a second-tier issue that you figure out after the technology,” she stresses. “You have to think about them at the same time.”

This story is cross-posted on Ecosystem Marketplace