Red Green Labour and the Green New Deal

A new report by the Green New Deal Group should be welcomed. It provides a valuable campaigning tool for those of us in the Labour Party who believe that the party should be Green as well as Red and should identify addressing climate change as a central concern and an important part of its electoral appeal, writes Peter Allen. You can read the report here : https://www.greennewdealgroup.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/GNDJobsReport9-18.pdf

Called  ‘Jobs in Every Constituency’ it has the subtitle ‘THIS TIME IT MUST BE DIFFERENT 10 years after 2008 economic crisis’. A follow up to its original report, published in that year, it notes that, since the crash, there has been much more discussion about the state’s role in improving the UK’s infrastructure. Meanwhile important technological changes have reduced the cost of green energy and mean that a Green New Deal is even more achievable than it was a decade ago, whilst the need for it is ever more urgent.

The report’s emphasis on a ‘ Jobs in Every Constituency ‘ approach is an attempt to widen public support for a shift to a “ jobs rich decarbonisation future” including in pro Brexit ‘ left behind’ communities. It  includes the following manifesto commitments which it would like political parties to include in their programmes for the next election.

  • Making the UK’s 30 million buildings super-energy-efficient to dramatically reduce energy bills, fuel poverty and greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Accelerating the shift to renewable electricity supplies and storage, given their dramatic drop in price worldwide and increased  availability;
  • Tackling the housing crisis by building affordable, highly insulated new homes, predominantly on brown field sites;
  • Transport policy that concentrates on rebuilding local public transport links;
  • Properly maintaining the UK’s road and rail system;
  • Encouraging electric vehicles for business and personal use and sharing.

Each local community/ parliamentary constituency should produce its own plans for implementing the above measures which are “labour intensive, take place in every locality and consist of work that is difficult to automate …..and would provide a secure career structure for decades. This would require a significant numbers of apprenticeships and the range of long-term jobs provide increased opportunities for the self-employed and local small businesses. This growth in local economic activity would in turn create other jobs to service this increased spending”

How would the money be found to pay for such measures ? The report suggests a possible role  for  targeted quantitative easing ( QE) , with central government creating money not to bail out the banks as happened last time but to fund the greening of our infrastructure. This might be combined with borrowing during what is a time of very low interest rates, increased taxes on the wealthy and collecting taxes from those currently unemployed or in precarious employment who would be moving into secure, well paid employment as part of the programme. It suggests that the programme would achieve long term economic ,social and ecological benefits worth many times the money spent.

“enormous sums would need to be used judiciously to ensure a realistically timetabled, carefully costed, and hence non-inflationary, nationwide initiative to train and employ a fairly paid ‘carbon army’ to work on this nationwide infrastructure programme…..(involving)extensive consultation with local government, businesses and communities to establish what such a programme should look like on the ground”.

The original Green New Deal Group was made up of 8 economists and campaigners and a single politician, Caroline Lucas of the Green Party. Last week’s letter to the Guardian had 13 signatories, including MPs from 4 Westminster parties ( Labour, Lib Dem, Green and SNP)  . The lead signatory was Vince Cable whilst Labour’s signatory was the relatively unknown David Drew, MP for Stroud and Shadow Farming and Rural Affairs Minister . Socialists may be unhappy at the prominence given to Vince Cable, particularly in view of the hostile comments he has made about Labour under Corbyn in recent days. I generally think that it is unwise to question people’s motives ( even politicians!) and hope that Cable may be wanting to reestablish his reputation as a progressive politician as he prepares to leave the stage. In any event it must be helpful to have the leader of the Liberal Democrats signed up to a set of proposals which go further than Labour’s 2017 manifesto in greening and transforming the UK economy.

No doubt many of us would say that the proposals should be more radical still. In particular the division between public and private sector involvement in the programme is left unclear. Moreover growing numbers of Labour activists, myself included, would question the whole notion of governments having to fund spending through either taxation or borrowing, preferring instead to accept the principles of Modern Monetary Theory  (see here http://www.actvism.org/en/politics/modern-monetary-theory-stephanie-kelton/ )

Nevertheless I think that ecosocialists should support the Green New Deal Report and Labour members should actively promote it within the party, at this year’s Conference and beyond. We should  welcome the Green New Deal Group‘s multi party approach and engage positively with it, in the hope of increasing its influence within  the party and of  further radicalising its approach.

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