Tinker round the edges won’t cut it at COP26, we need a transformative Green New Deal – Rebecca Long-Bailey


“Our broken financial system created this crisis and if we do not rebuild it from the ground up, we will not only have no quality of life, we’ll have no life on earth at all.”

Rebecca Long-Bailey MP.

At the recent “System Change, Not Climate Change” event hosted by Arise Festival, Rebecca Long-Bailey detailed in-depth why a transformative Green New Deal must be at the top of our agenda, and what it must be based around. Read her important contribution in full below, or watch the meeting back here:

System Change, Not Climate Change – A Green New Deal for People & Planet

So many groups are taking action in the run up to COP: Groups that are part of the climate coalition have the Glasgow Action Plan – they include groups such as Cafod, Christian Aid, Islamic Relief, RSPB, the Woodland Trust, WWF and the WI. We even did a 9 mile walk in Salford as part of it.

Our younger generation are out in force like, Teach the future Green New Deal Rising, who are organising protests and ways to pressure MPs. The thousands of NGO’s part of the Climate Action Network are holding a series of events and of course there are individual group events popping up everywhere like the Camino to COP walkers, the coat of hope.

The reason all of this pressure is so important is because we have Cop 26 round the corner but earlier this year all countries, including the UK, missed the symbolic 9th February deadline to strengthen plans to fight climate change under the Paris Agreement, and the Committee on Climate Change warned that the UK Government was not going far or fast enough to reach net zero.

Now we also have the added lens of the Pandemic – Certainly in England we have seen some of the worst pandemic management in the world. Right across the UK people’s economic insecurity has been revealed because we simply didn’t have the economic system set up to protect people when they needed it, and now with the UK economy being the worst hit of all advanced OECD nations, we need to see an economic game changer.

That “Game Changer” has to be a real Green New Deal.

The Green New Deal is not just a vehicle to tackle climate change and ensure the health of future generations, it is also the biggest economic lever we have ever had to implement the radical economic change needed to tackle social injustice and inequality.

We can’t retreat back into the era of tax penalties here, incentives there. This is a reckoning. Our broken financial system created this crisis and if we do not rebuild it from the ground up, we will not only have no quality of life, we’ll have no life on earth at all.

The ultimate goal should not just be about increasing investment in climate friendly technologies, it should about greening every aspect of society and instigating long term systemic economic change.

The last Labour manifesto set out a bold ambitious green programme called the Green Industrial Revolution focusing on a range of industrial measures such as the decarbonisation of energy and transport, home retrofitting, publicly owned energy and water, decarbonising energy intensive industries, a just transition for affected workers as well as unionised, well paid workforces and much more.

You know all of this and you know that these must not be watered down and all must be fought for, especially public ownership as that is not only the means to drive the change we need at the pace it is needed but it is the fundamental building block of sharing the wealth we create.

But it is also important to note that whilst these key industrial measures are urgently necessary, they form only a small part of a true Green New Deal Agenda.

The next step of the vision must therefore use the power of the Green New Deal to improve lives beyond the well discussed industrial sectors and one right at the top of the agenda must be Social Care.

We must of course retain our firm commitment to a public National Care Service just like the NHS, funded not by pushing those who have seen their income drop into further into poverty or selling people’s homes, but by ending the unfairness that sees income from wealth taxed at lower rates than income from work. But in developing this care service we must also develop a Green National Care Service. To do this we must recognise that care jobs are green jobs and should be paid as such, and that investing in care, in its physical infrastructure and care technologies is investing in a sustainable future. 

As an industry, demand for care is increasing and yet it produces relatively low greenhouse emissions compared to many other sectors, but that is just the start. Through creative innovations about how care is delivered and the homes we live in, we can deliver secure and well-paid work, build green infrastructure and support people in our community to live their best lives. This can only strengthen our economy in a sustainable way, and take some of the pressures off the NHS and other public services.

By delivering fair and inclusive unionised work, with good pay, terms and conditions, as well as apprenticeships and ongoing training, we can address staff shortages as well as retaining experienced staff. Financial and respite support must also be provided for unwaged carers because by supporting them in a similar model to foster care, more families will be able to choose to care for their loved ones in their own home.

Greening care spaces and practices is also critical. Government research spending should be allocated to the brilliant emerging cutting edge technologies that monitor or assist those receiving care, and these technologies should come with a green kite mark to evidence that they are produced and function in a sustainable way. Further through targeted investment, homes and care homes can be transformed by retrofitting them to the highest energy-efficiency standards thus reducing energy bills and eliminating fuel poverty. We should also roll out technologies like heat pumps and solar hot water so that the homes and care homes can generate their own energy.

For those wanting to downsize, move closer to family, or to a more suitable property for their needs we could not only pledge to build more suitable green council homes, but examine new housing models such as co-housing, common ground trusts, as well as creating Public Development Corporations to buy land and build new specific ‘Green Care and Retirement Villages’ that not only provide green, high quality homes and green space but reduce travel for carers.

The Green National Care Service should also be paired with investment in green, low carbon public transport such as electric buses, bringing bus and rail services back into public ownership and improvements to walking and cycling infrastructure.  But more than this, we can make carers lives easier and strengthen the UK’s car manufacturing industry by creating electric community car sharing clubs for carers.

These are just a few ideas of what we can do here in the UK but clearly that will not be enough. The risk is that most of COP26 will be an attempt to tinker around the edges. Days of waffling on about carbon markets. This is not good enough.

We need to lead by example with a green industrial plan and set out plans to export these technologies across the world as well as exporting more socially just forms of ownership in these new industries, we must push for a significant increase in foreign aid and campaign at COP26 for Wealthy nations to stump up the $100 billion a year to help poorer countries reduce their emissions and protect themselves against the impacts of climate change.

We also need to push on Climate damages, the role and responsibility of the big polluters to pay reparations because this have never been properly addressed by COP.

We need every single COP country to set out national plans, policies and investments to ensure they have completed most of this work to reach net zero by 2030.

If none of this happens, well it doesn’t even bear thinking about, we will have missed our chance and the future looks bleak.

Rebecca Long-Bailey giving her Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury speech at the 2016 Labour Party Conference in Liverpool. Photo credit: Rwendland/Wikicommons

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