“As a movement we need to be clear that now is absolutely not the time for tinkering around the edges – we need a game changing, systemic rewrite.”
Last 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. The IPCC has warned of a ‘code red’ for humanity and the UN Secretary General has stated we are ‘hurtling towards a hell scape’ of an environment for humanity.
As COP26 meets in this country we are also feeling the direct impacts of tragic Covid mismanagement – in England certainly it has been some of the worst in the world – a decade of cuts to public services and a longer grinding down of wages, income and job security and failure to address the deep structural issues in our economy. We have rising Covid rates – again – this winter, soaring energy bills and one in six working households facing poverty and over 5 million on the NHS waiting list.
This is the context as we head into the Autumn Budget, the Comprehensive Spending Review. As a movement we need to be clear that now is absolutely not the time for tinkering around the edges – we need a game changing, systemic rewrite.
We can’t retreat back into the era of tax penalties here, incentives there. This is a reckoning. Our broken financial system and economy created the crisis in our climate and our living standards. If we do not rebuild it from the ground up, we will not only have no quality of life in the future, we’ll have no life on earth at all.
That “game changer” has to be a real Green New Deal.
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.
In this way, 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 will ever have to implement the radical economic change needed to tackle social injustice and inequality.
We need to continue being bold as a movement on the range of industrial measures we want to see and need as a society such as the decarbonisation of energy and transport, home retrofitting and insulation that can help us end fuel poverty, 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. We can make every job in this country a well-paid, decent and secure job.
But it is 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.
Our public services have been battered with a decade of cuts and then the trauma of the pandemic. According to the IFS the Government has chosen to cut £10 billion from the ‘core, non-virus’ public service plans for 2021−22 and in March 2021 spending plans were further revised down in future years by between £11 and £13 billion.
These decisions are being made at a time when not only could it not be any clearer that as a society we need more and better, universal public services with the NHS given the resources it needs, our local authorities expanded to support and regenerate communities and education invested in and made free for all at every level, we must as a country finally have the social care and independent living support we deserve.
A key part of our vision must therefore to be to use the power of the Green New Deal to improve lives beyond the well discussed industrial sectors and social care must be at the tp of the agenda. We need a public National Care Service, 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. 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.
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.
A Green National Care Service care can build a caring economy that benefits people and the planet.
If we are serious about the Green New Deal then we must also be serious about making overall quality of life for all its central pillar and rethinking what work counts as part of a just and sustainable society.
But the fear with this Government is that not only will there be inaction and delay, yet again, in both the Budget and in its ‘leadership’ of COP.
We are seeing now in real time the failure on basic issues that can drive down Covid rates and deaths, such as tighter restrictions, raising Statutory Sick Pay so that people don’t have to go into work ill and on questions such as giving public services the resources they desperately need.
At COP we need every single country to set out national plans, policies and investments to ensure they have completed most of this work to reach net zero by 2030. It doesn’t even bear thinking about if COP is days of waffling on about carbon markets and a failure to yet again to take on the need of the big polluters to pay reparations. We will have missed our chance and the future looks bleak.