A Green New Deal for the UK? Part 5
We asked individuals from environmental and social justice groups, politics, academia, businesses and young people to tell us what they think it might mean for the UK. This is the last in our series of posts featuring their replies.
Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion
Over the past eight years, successive governments have built a bonfire out of the measures designed to cut emissions. Zero carbon homes was scrapped. Onshore wind has been effectively banned. Solar power has been shafted. The Green Investment Bank has been flogged off. And, whilst MPs grasp the severity of this situation, we know there are still many glaring inconsistencies in mainstream political thinking. For example, we cannot tackle climate change and build new runways, or prop up North Sea oil and gas, or spend billions on new roads. We cannot tackle climate change with an economy built on the assumption that precious minerals, fresh air, clean water and rare species can magically regenerate themselves in an instant, that somehow the Earth will expand to meet our voracious appetite for new stuff. If we are to truly avoid climate catastrophe, we must go beyond what is considered politically possible. We must change the debate.
A Green New Deal would do just that. It would mobilise resources on a scale unprecedented in peacetime, to tackle the climate emergency and address spiralling inequality. It would involve huge investment in clean energy, warm homes and affordable public transport, delivering a decent, well paid job to hundreds of thousands of people across the country. It would rebuild once proud communities that have been hollowed out by deindustrialisation and austerity, allowing them to thrive as part of a collective endeavour to protect the planet. And it would protect and restore threatened habitats and carbon sinks like forests, wild places, soils and oceans. Anything less simply won’t be enough.
Rebecca Willis, research fellow, Lancaster University
The biggest impact of the Green New Deal on the UK could be symbolic, but highly significant: it could encourage, or even force, politicians to speak openly about climate change. In a way, President Trump paved the way for the Green New Deal in the US. His election – and with it, the blow to the cosy certainties of centrist politics – made it possible for his opponents to throw caution to the wind, and think bold. And that’s just what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has done. As a result, no Democratic presidential candidate can now afford to remain silent about climate action.
Compare that to the UK, where climate change is conspicuous by its absence in mainstream political debate. My research with members of parliament showed that politicians have been reluctant to speak out on climate change, shying away from discussion of radical action. It has suited them to keep quiet. It used to be like this in the US. But the Green New Deal has put climate back where it should be: as the defining political issue of our time. It may just provide the spark for a similar shift in the UK.
[Image: Sunrise movement in December 2018. Courtesy of Becker1999 via Flickr]