The Global Green New Deal: What’s That All About?
I’ve been hearing a lot about the ‘Global Green New Deal’ lately so I set off to find out what it’s all about…
I’ve come to see that it attempts to cover what needs to be done on a global scale to deal with the climate crisis.
I wasn’t surprised to find that response to the Green New Deal has been clouded with waffle. It seems to be buried under a pile of ‘obfuscation’ – a wonderful word which I only recently came across but which describes so much going on in our political world just now. Apparently it means ‘clouding’ or ‘muddying’ or ‘mystifying’. The opposite of the much-needed transparency really.
A prominent member of the ‘not sure what it involves’ camp is non-other than Amazon boss Jeff Bezos who said:
“There are a lot of different ideas for what the Green New Deal is and it’s probably too broad to say too much about that in particular.”
But then he is the richest man in the world (even richer thanks to the pandemic) and chief executive of one of the world’s most carbon-intensive technology companies, so we could be forgiven for thinking ‘He would say that wouldn’t he?’
A United Nations report encapsulated perfectly the Green New Deal by calling on governments to overhaul the rules of the international trade and monetary systems so that all countries could carry out the necessary mass investments to decarbonize their economies. That seems pretty straight to the point to me.
In spite of the ‘obfuscation’ there is growing understanding of just what the Global Green New Deal is about and it’s gaining increasing support.
C40 is a network of the world’s megacities as far-flung as Copenhagen, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Sydney and Tokyo which are committed to addressing climate change and are on a mission to implement policies in line with the Green New Deal.
If Jeff Bezos visited their C40 website he would find a very clear description of the core principles to which they are committed:
- They recognise the global climate emergency
- They are committed to keeping global heating below the 1.5 degree goal of the Paris Agreement by curbing emissions in the sectors that are the greatest contributors to the climate crisis: Transportation, buildings and waste.
- They are committed to putting inclusive climate action at the centre of all urban decision-making, to create thriving and equitable communities for everyone.
- They invite their partners – political leaders, CEOs, trade unions, investors, and civil society – to join in recognising the global climate emergency and help to deliver on science-based action to overcome it.
In short, the Global Green New Deal is all about weaning us off fossil fuels and guaranteeing new high-paying jobs in clean energy industries.
What’s happening in the UK?
The Green New Deal began life in the US, but here in the UK, The Clean Growth Fund is an attempt to meet the targets the government is legally bound to achieve under the Climate Change Act. The fund, which is supported across the political spectrum, offers financial aid to entrepreneurs working on innovations that will minimise environmental damage by cutting greenhouse gas emissions, using natural resources more efficiently or reducing waste and pollution.
The idea is to encourage and invest in the development all sorts of technological initiatives across the board including renewable energy, energy-efficient vehicles, materials re-use and recycling and lots more …
Sounds like another good new story doesn’t it?
Although the Green New Deal and the Clean Growth Fund seem like really good news to me, doubts about whether they are the answer to our potentially catastrophic environmental problems have been coming through loud and clear.
The main line of criticism comes from those who see that the real problem we need to face is our economic/political system – free-market capitalism.
Open Democracy explains why free-market capitalism is at the root of our problems:
Because capitalism depends on continual growth, it means …
- The Earth’s natural resources are becoming exhausted
- Increasing waste and pollution are creating havoc with our land, seas and air
- Climate change – resulting from the huge rise in the burning of fossil fuels and carbon emissions since the industrial revolution – has led to the extinction of millions of species and the potential extinction of Mankind
- The ‘developed’ nations rely on colonial resource extraction abroad involving gross human rights violations, exploitative work conditions and localised ecological degradation in the Global South.
The ‘elephant in the room’ is that to feed capitalism’s insatiable appetite for growth people in the ‘developed’ world are encouraged to believe that the good life depends on excessive material consumption. (More about how we are ‘encouraged’ in my blog of Sept 28 2018 – Hegemony)
I’ve come to see that, in discussing our modern-day woes, people are talking about our need for a ‘paradigm[i]’ change.
The Global Environment Faculty (annual budget of $1bn) who work to safeguard the global environmental commons including the climate, biodiversity, land, water, and the oceans says:
‘We need to change our economic system so that we can continue to prosper within planetary boundaries.’
‘A coalition of governments, citizens, and businesses can achieve the paradigm shift in our economy.’
The argument about whether the Green New Deal and initiatives like the Clean Growth Fund are enough to combat the climate crisis rages on with powerful supporters on both sides. But George Monbiot takes a very strong line and comes straight to the point in seeing capitalism as the planet’s cancer. He says:
‘Operate before it is too late.’
Perhaps the reason why change is such a long time coming is that those of us who are relatively materially rich aren’t too happy to give up on some of our goodies’ and those in positions of power to bring about change have a vested interested in keeping the status quo!
I wrote about my understanding of capitalism in my previous posts on Oct 23 2018 – ‘Understanding Capitalism – has it led us into big trouble?’ and Oct 31 2018 – ‘Is this what the ‘Father of Capitalism’ intended?’
[i] Paradigm: An important change that happens when the usual way of thinking about or doing something is replaced by a new and different way