Olivier Douliery / Sipa USA / AP

Green Party candidate Jill Stein announces 2016 presidential run

Stein promises a ‘Green New Deal’ to eliminate fossil fuel dependency by 2030

Jill Stein, the latest entrant into the 2016 presidential race, pledged to eradicate poverty, bring about full employment and wean the United States off fossil fuels by 2030 in a Tuesday announcement speech at Washington, D.C.’s National Press Club.

Stein, who revealed Monday that she would seek the Green Party’s nomination for the White House, said her campaign “is building a people-powered force that will not sell or bow out, and will change American politics forever."

This will be Stein’s second presidential campaign, following a 2012 bid on the Green Party ticket in which she received 0.36 percent of the popular vote. She has also run unsuccessfully for governor of Massachusetts twice and held local office in her hometown of Lexington, Mass. Stein is a physician by training.

The Green Party, which presents itself as a left-wing alternative to both the Democrats and Republicans, reached the summit of its national popularity in 2000, when presidential nominee Ralph Nader brought in nearly 3 percent of the popular vote. Nader and his supporters argued that the Green Party offered a real choice in that election because there was little difference between the two major parties.

Stein is making much the same pitch this year, but it is unclear whether it will carry resonance a decade and a half later. A wealth of political science research indicates that Democrats and Republicans have drifted farther apart in recent years; and although the Republican Party’s rightward drift appears to be largely behind growing polarization, Democrats have moved left as well.

Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner in the 2016 Democratic primary and someone long identified with the party’s centrist wing, is now courting advocates for a $15 minimum wage and proposing broad reforms to the criminal justice system. The man running a distant second in the Democratic primary, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, is a socialist.

Stein is already taking pains to distinguish her candidacy from that of Sanders. John Andrews, a senior adviser for her campaign, told Al Jazeera over email that Sanders, unlike Stein, is still operating within the Democratic machine and will likely endorse Clinton if she becomes the nominee. Sanders, therefore, "does not present a long-term challenge to the establishment."

"The Stein campaign is leading the way toward a vibrant, multi-party democracy in America that will rescue our democracy from big money and give voters a choice on the ballot," Andrews wrote. "Jill will not be endorsing Hillary Clinton."

The centerpiece of Stein's vision is a plan to simultaneously eradicate unemployment and mitigate climate change through a “Green New Deal” that will put jobless Americans to work building a renewable energy infrastructure. Under this plan, Stein pledges that the U.S. will derive all of its energy from water, wind and solar power by the year 2030.

Stanford University professor of civil and environmental engineering Mark Z. Jacobson, who co-authored a recent paper on how the United States could replace fossil fuels by 2050, described Stein’s goal as “technically and economically possible” but “very unlikely."

"A wartime-like mobilization of resources could result in a rapid shift by 2030, but shifting, for example, aircraft, would be difficult in that time frame without very aggressive policy measures,” Jacobson told Al Jazeera via email. "We think that an 80 percent conversion by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050 is more practical, but even this will require collective willpower and aggressive polices."

Andrews defended the 2030 deadline and said that whether achieving that goal is possible depends on "how serious you are about it."

"In terms of practicality, the one approach that we do not feel is at all practical is to continue to invest in fossil fuel production, to pay for the damages of pollution, and to simultaneously pay the enormous costs associated with increased global warming," said Andrews.

Stein’s platform also calls for single-payer health care, tuition-free public education, dramatic cuts to defense spending and a $15 minimum wage. 

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