Category Archives: Climate change

A Green New Deal for the UK? Part 5

GND 5 small.pngWe 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
ClucasOver 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
RebeccaWillis2048x3072The 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]

A Green New Deal for the UK? Part 4

no more excuses smallWe asked individuals from environmental and social justice groups, politics, academia, businesses, and young people to tell us what they think the Green New Deal might mean for the UK. This is the fourth in a series of blogs in which we feature their responses.

 

 

Fernanda Balata, senior researcher and programme manager, New Economics Foundation
Balata square
The Green New Deal is an incredible opportunity for the UK to deliver the transformative economic change that is needed, within the timeframe that we have, to avoid climate breakdown. There are a number of people, organisations and communities all over the UK who have been working to address social, economic and environmental injustice. For too long now, these efforts have remained at the margins of the heavily unbalanced and unfair UK economy.

Rather than making empty promises for a more sustainable and fair economy that works for everyone, whilst continuing to invest in what’s causing the problems in the first place, a Green New Deal is a coherent national framework and investment plan that tackles complex problems head on and shifts the value system of our economy towards what really matters to people and the planet. It’s not just about the outcome, it’s also about the process. The Green New Deal’s power for change should be rooted in places, effectively allowing us all to be a part of that conversation, to collectively make the important decisions which will affect our lives and those of future generations, and take urgent action to the benefit of happier and healthier planet for everyone.

Bryn Kewley, executive member, Socialist Environment and Resources Network
KewleyNothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come and the notion of a Green New Deal has arrived at the perfect moment. As the Brexit and Trump phenomena mature, we need more popular ideas rooted in good sense to re-establish trust in our institutions, our social contracts, and a rules-based consensus.

In the US it can be a tool to prove the political popularity of action on climate change and investing in our children’s future. In the UK, where for the first time not a single Conservative MP stood up to deny climate change during a recent debate in parliament, the Green New Deal idea has arrived at the confluence between rising climate awareness and an increasingly clear economic case.

The World Economic Forum says fighting climate change could add $26 trillion to the global economy by 2030. The economic opportunities are everywhere, but we’re doing little to drive them with an under supported renewable energy sector, opportunities to build electric vehicles rapidly diminishing and UK export finance focused on the fossil fuels of the past, rather than our growing renewables sector. We need ambitious policy commitments to drive a clean green future that we can all benefit from.

Labour have already announced bold policies in renewable energy, transport decarbonisation and a net zero economy, but also a serious and well-funded commitment to insulate homes which will cut bills and reduce fuel poverty. A UK based Green New Deal wouldn’t just mean good green jobs and better prospects, it’s also how politicians of all stripes prove that they’re listening and are bold enough to act.

A Green New Deal for the UK? Part 2

GND blog 2 smallWe asked individuals from environmental and social justice groups, politics, academia, businesses, and young people to tell us what they think the Green New Deal might mean for the UK. This is the second in a series of blogs in which we feature their responses.

 

 

Councillor Angeliki Stogia, executive member, Environment, Planning & Transport and Labour and co-operative councillor, Whalley Range, Manchester City Council
CouncillorIt means between £49m and £141m of savings every year from our residents’ energy bills. 30,000 new jobs in the environment and sustainability sector. £17m savings to the NHS each year by eradicating cold, damp, energy inefficient homes. A £1.3 billion boost to the local economy from dealing with our congestion and air pollution problems.

As well as making our fair contribution to the Paris Agreement, these are among the benefits we estimate Manchester will achieve from becoming a zero carbon city by 2038 and staying within our 15 million tonne carbon budget for 2018-2100.

Manchester isn’t alone: all UK cities and towns have the potential to realise these types of benefits. However, getting there needs a fundamental shift in our work with the government. We urgently need a comprehensive national programme to enable all UK local authorities, our residents and our businesses to fully and urgently contribute to the Paris Agreement and realise the benefits that will come as a result.

This programme needs to be in place by COP25 in November 2019 and operational from early-2020 at the latest, if the government is serious about the UK’s commitment to Paris. For our part we are currently putting in place a Manchester Zero Carbon Framework 2020-38, which has been formally endorsed by the Manchester City Council today. I sincerely hope that over the next 12 months we can bring the government on board as one of our key partners in its delivery.

Grace Blakeley, research fellow, Institute for Public Policy Research’s Commission on Economic Justice
Grace BlakeleyCo-ordinated state action is necessary to address climate change without harming the economy or inflicting the costs on the poorest. Far from being a radical dream, a Green New Deal is increasingly the only sensible choice.

Immediately after Brexit, logistical problems could prevent vital goods from reaching shop shelves. Falling house prices would affect people’s wealth, and rising import costs could erode spending power. Lower consumer spending and increased uncertainty would constrain business investment, potentially leading to job cuts and wage reductions. This analysis, however, rests on the assumption that the government will not intervene to address any of these problems.

A properly resourced stimulus programme could both absorb the initial demand shock of any exit, and expand the economy’s productive potential. In truth, there is only one option: a Green New Deal. 

Putting billions of pounds worth of investment into green infrastructure, and research and development into green technologies, would both absorb the demand shock today and expand productivity tomorrow. Combined with policy measures to democratise ownership, and reforms to the tax system, future growth would be more fairly shared.

Nick Taylor, CUSP research fellow, Goldsmiths University
Nick Taylor squareThe Green New Deal is a vision that could embrace many different ecological and economic strategies, but it would certainly have to mean a new approach to government spending and to the regulation of the financial sector.

Resuscitated under the banner of Democratic Socialism in the United States, there the GND is promising a transformative change in how the economy works by asserting the enormous capacity for the state to fund infrastructure, a federal job guarantee and more.

In the UK, large scale low carbon investment has been sought for years through encouragement of the UK financial sector, and new forms of ‘green finance’. The evidence so far is that, despite increasing noise about environmentally and socially responsible investing, the financial sector as a whole will remain heavily invested in fossil fuels and will only consider social or low carbon infrastructure if the risks and returns on capital are acceptable.

The depth and magnitude of the ecological crisis require a GND that challenges the logic that brought us to this situation of existential urgency. That means an agenda that, among other things, affirms the capacity of the state, contra years of austerity, to invest in low carbon infrastructure and jobs, and to take a far greater interventionist stance in regulating the financial sector and its relationship to investment.

[Image: school students strike for climate in London, courtesy of David Holt via Flickr] 

Brexit chaos shouldn’t distract the government from the climate crisis

Ashdown forest fire Feb 19_Tom_Lee via Flickr_cropThe run-up to Brexit has felt like Hemingway’s description of going bankrupt: gradually, then suddenly. Months of slow, confused politics: Theresa May surviving the most important week of her career, until the next one; unmeaningful votes passing or failing and not having much effect either way; opposition that is never quite clear what it is opposing. All this has now led us to a point just over twenty days from Brexit and, despite, or perhaps because of, the recent moves, in the new Independent Group and Labour’s support for another public vote, Westminster remains in chaos. Read more

How carbon cutting could be a viable new income source for farmers and land managers

peat smallAs we hit the hottest winter temperatures ever in the UK, it‘s clear that the imperative to tackle climate change is becoming ever more urgent. We need to look at every aspect of how our economy is run to find new ways to cut carbon and attention is now turning to the role that land use and farming can play. Read more

Out of the mouths of babes: Greta Thunberg and being ‘naïve’ on climate

gretathunberg_viaflickr_prachataiThis post is by Green Alliance associate Dr Rebecca Willis. It first appeared on her blog.

I can’t stop thinking about sixteen year old Greta Thunberg, speaking with quiet determination to rooms full of powerful people in Davos.

I think that Thunberg has an incredible gift. She summarises, with simplicity and eloquence, what climate scientists have been telling us for a long time: that climate change threatens our future on this planet; and that drastic cuts to emissions are needed, starting now. Read more

How not to solve plastic pollution

plastic bottles square“As petroleum came to the relief of the whale,” said an 1878 promotional pamphlet for the world’s first industrial plastic, “so has celluloid given the elephant, the tortoise, and the coral insect a respite in their native haunts, and it will no longer be necessary to ransack the earth in pursuit of substances which are constantly growing scarcer.” Read more

What the new green watchdog can learn from the Committee on Climate Change

This post is by Dr Ajay Gambhir, senior research fellow at Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment.

path in park squareThis year marks the tenth anniversary of the UK Climate Change Act, the first of a kind legislation to hold a country to a long term greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal. One of its central components, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), is actually a year older than the act itself, having been established in a non-legislated ‘shadow’ form in 2007, to prepare advice on what the act’s long term emissions goal should be and how it could be achieved. Read more

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