By Ellen Gibson, 350.org UK Organiser
You’ve probably heard a bit about the Green New Deal ideas that are electrifying politics in the US right now. Maybe you’ve seen the conversations and excitement bubbling up here in the UK as well. Many people, including myself, have been incredibly inspired by the propulsion of this movement into the public light. But what really is a Green New Deal?
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It’s worth saying that there definitely isn’t any universally agreed concrete answer to this question. Lots of research has been done into what sorts of policies and proposals could make up a Green New Deal, but there isn’t some sort of manifesto to sign onto, or a single demand to unite under for the time being.
Really, it is a big idea and a vision for the future. An idea that says: we need to tackle climate change, and fast. And that the process of doing this could—and should—be an opportunity to build a fairer, more prosperous society.
That being said, there are some pieces which we think really need to be part of a Green New Deal for the UK, and which we plan to fight for:
- Massive public investment in the rapid transition to a green economy. This includes the creation of sustainable well-paid jobs, good housing, quality public services, and affordable energy—starting in the communities being hit hardest by the climate crisis and energy transition.
- End the age of fossil fuels. We need to stop digging and drilling for oil, coal and gas. We need an immediate ban on any new development and a rapid phase out of existing infrastructure.
- Stop funding the energy of the past, start funding the transition. Public money is still pouring into the fossil fuel industry, funding dirty projects around the world. We think this should be redirected towards renewable energy, and other projects that will improve our health and wellbeing.
We’re told that we can’t have a safe climate and an economy that works for people. We’re told to be realistic, to lower our ambitions for what can be achieved. But there is nothing pragmatic about ignoring the threat of climate change. The only realistic plan is one ambitious enough to match the scale of the crisis, and to transform our society for the better in the process.
Last year’s IPCC report showed that we need to move faster and go further in our demands for climate action. We are no longer in an age where small changes are enough to address this crisis—we need to see radical and transformative action, particularly in places like the UK that bear historic and continuing responsibility for climate change.
It sounds obvious to say, but to address climate change, we cannot rely on the forces of the free market or on individual actions. We need governments to step up and show real leadership.
For too long the UK government has staked its claim to ‘climate leadership’ on the existence of the Climate Change Act. This legislation was an incredible achievement but, 10 years on from its passing, it is clear that the Act itself is not enough to prompt the sort of radical changes we need to see. We’re not on track to meet our climate targets – and we know that even if we were, those targets aren’t ambitious enough.
As this climate crisis unfolds, we are also living through a time of unprecedented political turmoil, alongside sky high levels of social and economic inequality. Our economy is plagued by low wages and insecure jobs, and we are told we must put up with poor quality housing and rip-off energy bills.
The Green New Deal offers us a vision of an economy that no longer drives climate change while also creating a fairer, healthier and more prosperous society. In this moment of uncertainty, it feels like there has never been a better time for this vision.
Our demands are big and ambitious; they require change at all levels of government and society and we can’t rely on our politicians to enact this by themselves. This sort of change requires a powerful movement of people to force the conversation, build the necessary support, and demand action from decision-makers.
We think young people need to be at the centre of this new movement. Why? Well, you only need to look at the youth strikes to see that they are already the ones leading the way. And to quote a one of the Sunrise Movement’s organisers in the US, Becca Rast – “we have less to lose than any other generation, and everything to gain.”
By organising in our own communities we can build the sort of massive movement that is needed to force urgent action. And our movement will be built by and for everyone—across the lines of class, race, gender, sexuality, migration status and ability that are too often used to divide us.
This isn’t to say we have it all figured out. Conversations on the Green New Deal are evolving constantly, and proposals keep being strengthened as more people join the debate. But we think that this movement offers us the best chance to build on our successes so far, and to go further in our demand for climate justice and a fair society.
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Other writing on the Green New Deal we like: