Category Archives: Political leadership

What would ‘Norway’ mean for nature laws?

RSPB smallThis post is by Donal McCarthy, senior policy officer at the RSPB.

On Monday night, MPs approved a motion providing parliament with the chance to hold a series of indicative votes on alternatives to the current Brexit deal. One of the alternative options that is being promoted by a cross-party grouping of MPs is a ‘Norway-style’ agreement (also known as ‘Norway Plus’ or ‘Common Market 2.0’).

This option would see the UK negotiate a future relationship with the EU similar to that enjoyed by Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, the three members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) that participate in the EU single market under the terms of the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement. But what might this mean for the laws governing species and habitat protection across the UK? Read more

Biodiversity loss is more than an environmental problem, it is a development, economic, social and moral issue

biodiversity smallThis post is by Professor Sir Robert T Watson FRS, strategic director of the Tyndall Centre and chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

The IPBES recently published four landmark regional assessment reports of biodiversity (ie genes, species and ecosystems). There is one each for the Americas, Africa, Europe and Central Asia, and Asia and the Pacific, and an assessment of land degradation and restoration.  The findings of these assessments are based on thousands of scientific reports, as well as indigenous and local knowledge. They clearly demonstrate that biodiversity is as much a development, economic, social and moral issue as an environmental issue. Read more

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 3

GND 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 third in a series of blogs in which we feature their responses.



Eamonn Ives, researcher, Centre for Policy Studies
Eamonn ivesMake no mistake about it, the Green New Deal is anything but. While paraded as a plan to help the environment, a light scratch beneath the surface is all it takes to reveal its true, altogether redder, colours. Fundamentally, it is a blueprint to expand government control in a way never seen before, and besiege the very system which will give the world’s largest economy the best shot at arresting climate change. The UK would be foolish to follow suit.

This is not a hymn to unchecked, wanton free markets. Proponents of laissez faire economics can and, indeed, should support such reasonable principles as internalising externalities. But the GND makes the fatal error of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Capitalism is the only mode of production capable of maximally harnessing humanity’s creative ingenuity to overcome complex problems. Within the context of climate change, it is the entrepreneur, not the politburo, which has furnished us with cultured meat, renewable energy, low carbon transport and much else besides. Certainly, it is these advancements which have allowed the UK to see its carbon emissions steadily drop from their peak in the late-20th century.

The GND is admirable insofar as it acknowledges the symptoms of a warming planet. But it dismally miscalculates the diagnosis, and, crucially, the cure. Less and better applied government, not simply markedly more, gives us the best chance of unleashing that ultimate resource – the human mind – to invent, refine and disperse the technologies which will vanquish climate change once and for all.

 Emma Degg, chief executive, North West Business Leadership Team
DeggA Green New Deal could stimulate growth that does not undermine the carrying capacity of our planet. If our growth is high quality, innovative and sustainable, then we will set ourselves apart from the pack; we will have a significant sustainability advantage and we’ll have healthier business and communities. If we grasp the opportunity to be pioneers, we will secure an advantage not just for our country, but we will also be exporting sustainable solutions and ideas which will have a progressive and positive impact the world over.

There is only one outcome that matters and it is a sustainable future. If we want to be able to look back a generation from now and see, with pride, how we accomplished a huge and positive change, we have to realise, fundamentally, that achieving sustainability is not a nice to have, an optional extra or a bolt-on boost to our social responsibility. It is essential.

Chris Saltmarsh, co-director: climate change campaigns, People & Planet
Chris saltmarsh newThrough the divestment movement, British and Irish students have forged the space for transformative climate action by stripping fossil fuel companies of their social licence operate. Now the Green New Deal offers a framework for governments to systematically dismantle the fossil fuel industry while investing to deliver a just, zero carbon economy.

The prosperity promised by the Green New Deal is its strength. But, without a confrontation with the fossil fuel industry, which has actively blocked climate action since the 1970s, the plan will fail before it begins.

The UK is the centre of so much fossil capital. BP and BHP are based here. So are banks like Barclays and HSBC which provide billions in corporate and project finance to continue extraction. A Green New Deal in the UK must rein in the banks, break up the companies responsible for climate breakdown, and ensure a secure and prosperous future for all.

[Image: Sunrise Movement in South Francisco call on Nancy Pelosi to advance a Green New Deal. Courtesy of Peg Hunter via Flickr]

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] 

A Green New Deal for the UK? Part 1

AOC smallThe first in a short series of blogs where we ask 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. 

As scientific consensus on climate change repeatedly points to evidence that global warming is caused by human activity, an appeal to use policy to address these activities has boosted momentum. The Green New Deal (GND) in the US situates climate change as a major national emergency and integrates economic opportunities to uplift communities and combat man-made global warming. Read more

Local politicians want to act on climate change, but need public support

town centre smallThis post is by Deb Joffe, co-founder of Swindon Climate Action Network. She co-runs The Climate Brief,  promoting climate change action among local politicians.

Local councillors from all parties have a strong appetite for discussion and action on climate change, but need to feel that the public support them, according to recent research. They also want reliable information about solutions they can implement. Read more

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