What is the most pressing issue facing humanity today? Climate breakdown? Mass extinction? Poverty? Inequality? International conflict? What can we do about them? Which policies provide the best solutions? Which technologies will help solve our problems? Confusing isn’t it?
It’s my belief that all of these issues are part of a single problem. Over the past four decades our society has made much progress, but in terms of achieving long-term social and ecological sustainability almost everything we have done – de-industrialisation, privatisation, globalisation – has been completely wrong! Add in the factor that in at least two cases – climate change, mass extinction – things are now so critical urgent measures are needed, and we might conclude that individual actions, or leaving it to the ‘free’ market, are no longer enough, and that we need a radical strategy addressing the causes of all the above problems, together.
In this sense, our circumstances are like those of the 1930s, when orthodox economic policies (the same ones employed here since 2008!) were seen to be causing unemployment and poverty, not curing them. US President Franklin D. Roosevelt then launched ‘The New Deal’: a radical approach to economic policy based on strong government intervention, and an end to allowing markets to operate unrestricted. Many people therefore suggest what we now need is a ‘Green’ New Deal which takes all of the most pressing problems we face, and addresses them via a single, coherent strategy.
One example is ‘Labour for a Green New Deal’; a massive, state-led programme of investment and regulation designed to decarbonise the UK economy, reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2030. This will require complete transformation of how most of us live, based not on ‘market forces’, but a ‘Just Transition’ to secure, well-paid work in a ‘green’ economy involving renewable energy, decarbonised transport and industry, and sustainable food production, supported by a £250 billion National Transformation Fund.
This programme will also provide regenerated universal basic services – top quality housing, healthcare, transport and education – requiring new forms of public and private ownership organised on national, regional and local scales, whose aim is to enhance the power of local communities to control and administer their own local resources. A successful example of this approach is that pioneered by Preston City Council, where employers such as hospitals and colleges act as ‘anchors’ around which local procurement of goods and services are based: on behalf of the whole community.
Labour’s Green New Deal is not just local campaign, however. There is also a strong argument that because of our colonial and industrial heritage, relatively well-off European countries should also help promote climate resilience in the Global South, not just by supporting refugees, but by enabling former colonies to rebuild their own economies along new, ‘zero-carbon’ pathways.
SE Cornwall Labour will be holding street stalls about ‘Labour for a Green New Deal’ at various locations throughout the constituency over the next three months. Likely dates are:
17 August, Torpoint
24 August, Looe
7 September, Callington
28 September, Liskeard
5th October, Lostwithiel
19th October, Saltash
So if you are interested, please do stop and talk to us about it.
Patrick O’Sullivan is Policy Officer, South East Cornwall Labour, and a member of the Policy & Research Team of Labour for a Green New Deal .