26 Jan 2009
The case for a Green New Deal
Here is an article of mine based on stuff by Caroline Lucas setting out more re a Green New Deal. I'm hoping a local magazine re sustainability will run it as this is really the way we must be going...
We now face not just an ecological crisis but recession. A dark time indeed. However as an eminent Kyoto professor said in the Japan Times, “The darkest hour is just before green.” It may sound better in Japanese, but the sentiment is entirely apt in any language.
The answer to both crisis is to go green. Proposals so far go no where near far enough. We need a full-blown green industrial revolution.
We are far behind Germany in solar power and we trail many countries in green waste management – which sustain more per jobs per megawatt and tonne respectively than their less green alternatives. We have ten times Denmark's population yet we have only just passed Denmark in off-shore wind power. Plus our current transport policy still emphasises more roads, whereas light and heavy rail systems would create more jobs per billion pounds of investment as well as being less polluting, healthier and more socially inclusive.
Worse, current proposals mean the continuing promotion of globalisation. This means exporting jobs, making the UK economy even less well-balanced, and shipping goods over longer distances, with the resulting bigger carbon footprint.
What we need is a major shift in our understanding. We need to forget the false arguments about environment vs economics, because ultimately the only viable forms of economics will be those that don't compromise our ecological sustainability. We need a Green New Deal (GND).
Although in reality what a GND proposes isn't really new at all. Greens have been advocating these policies for a long time, but economists and industrialists are increasingly coming around to our way of thinking. We are seeing many schemes now in practice from Germany's massive solar investments which were devised by Green Party ministers, to the insulation schemes led by the Greens on Kirklees borough council in Yorkshire and now being discussed as a potential £1 billion project by the Scottish Parliament.
In November in the Sub Rooms in Stroud a GND was launched by Colin Hines, co director of Finance for the Future and a former head of Greenpeace Economics Unit. He co-authored a report with a panel including Dr Caroline Lucas, Green party Leader and MEP, Richard Murphy, Co-Director of Finance for the Future and Director, Jeremy Leggett, SolarCentury boss, Larry Elliot, Guardian Economic Editor, Andrew Simms, New Economics Foundation Director, Ann Pettifor, former head of the Jubilee 2000 debt relief campaign and Charles Secrett and Tony Juniper, former Friends of the Earth chiefs.
In contrast to the Government's plans this GND would fundamentally re-engineer the economy: £30bn would create half a million jobs over the next year in public transport and environmental works. There are 22 million homes in the UK that need improved energy efficiency if we are to tackle climate change and peak oil.
The GND also proposes a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies and creating new national investment products, such as local government bonds, to fund this work and provide a safe haven for pensions and savings. Funds would also come from closing offshore tax havens to stabilise the financial sector and discourage tax avoidance.
Indeed the GND policies aim to rekindle a crucial sense of purpose, restore public trust and refocus the use of capital on public priorities and sustainability. It will also deliver a low-energy future. The absence of any such plan at present leaves our country very vulnerable.
We have had enough green vocabulary it is time for a green agenda.
Philip Booth, a Stroud District councillor for the Green party
Download a copy of GND here.