Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

A Green New Deal

Jim Jepps and Rupert Read say the UK needs a 'Green New Deal' to tackle the 'triple crunch' of credit, oil prices and climate change

January 21, 2009
5 min read

In the 1930s, the world endured a grim economic depression. In the US, F D Roosevelt pioneered the way out with the New Deal, which helped stabilise the financial system and refloated the economy. We face the same kind of economic problems today but with added ecological threats. The age of cheap, plentiful oil is ending and we cannot simply invest in polluting factories, massive dams, boondoggle transport projects as FDR’s government did then.

If there is to be a new New Deal, it has to be a Green New Deal, which is exactly what a distinguished group of environmentalists and economists, including Andrew Simms, of the New Economics Foundation; Tony Juniper, former director of Friends of the Earth; Larry Elliott, economics editor of the Guardian and Green party leader Caroline Lucas MEP, propose.

Drawing inspiration from Roosevelt, the Green New Deal group calls for:

  • Capital flows to be regulated. The power to fix interest rates and the exchange rate to be restored to elected, sovereign governments. Crucially, this means exchange controls must return.
  • Publicly accountable central banks to be free to inject debt-free money into the economy and keep the cost of borrowing low (so that loan expenditure projects can be easily financed).
  • Resources to create jobs, in part by filling tax loopholes and closing tax havens.
  • A new global and independent central bank to be established. Based on Keynes’s proposal for a global bank (called the International Clearing Union), it will manage and stabilise trade between countries, create a trading currency and a reserve asset that is neutral between countries (perhaps one based on carbon). In short: We need a new Bretton Woods settlement.

    Creating a carbon army

    Brown talks of jobs in building a successor to the Trident nuclear missile system. But such jobs would be capital-intensive (not to mention potentially a war-crime), what we now have a ‘glut’ of is labour, not capital.

    The first thing that a Green New Deal must mean is good, secure, green jobs (see Jean Lambert’s Green jobs to beat recession). We need a ‘carbon army’ of highly skilled green-collar workers, so money is needed for retraining as well as new tranches of public transport investment and to make working on the land more sustainable and localised. By capitalising on economies of scale, the UK could rapidly become a world leader in cheap, eco-friendly energy – not just wind, but tidal, solar and other forms of renewables.

    But can government really lead a relocalisation of our economy and society? Yes – in fact, only government can do this. We can have a centralised drive to create the tools for localised solutions. Micro energy production and decentralised district heating systems make sense but require big investment and co-ordination from the centre.

    We should incentivise localities to welcome renewable energy’s gift of greater security of supply – perhaps by reducing tariffs in areas that adopt rather than reject wind, wave or tidal power schemes. This works from both the radical left and any mainstream political perspective. We’d be crazy not to pursue an avenue that can become the political consensus.

    Currently British manufacturers produce few if any wind turbines, and planning regulations make the whole process of moving to a low carbon economy unnecessarily expensive and time consuming. Gearing the country towards independence from fossil fuels does two things at once. It helps cut our environmental impact and distances us from the instability of international fuel prices and markets. This will help us become a more sustainable and resilient economy in every sense.

    It is imperative to ensure this unexpected, if welcome, Keynesian consensus is not squandered. This requires government intervention, so let’s make sure it’s the right intervention.

    No taxation without representation

    The globalised finance system that we now have would have been repugnant to Keynes, who wanted finance and capital kept national – and thus under democratic oversight.

    We need systemic reform of the banking system but reforms alone will never secure long-term safety, because after a while a privatised banking system will start agitating to strip away and circumvent the protections and regulations. Instead, we need a banking system consisting of a large public sector, democratically directed toward a sustainable economy that supports businesses in the real economy, with low interest rates, plus a large network of co-ops, mutuals and credit unions.

    A key principle that must govern any just response to the financial crisis is no taxation without representation. If we the people are to put billions of pounds of our money into guaranteeing the banks, then we need to be able to exert real control over those banks to change their behaviour.

    It’s a scandal, for example, that Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley are repossessing more homes than their private competitors. If our money is to keep them afloat, let’s demand that that these building societies act for the public good, rather than simply aping commercial concerns. In the longer term, they should be remutualised.

    It’s time for a great leap forward in our ability to weather the vast triple threat of dangerous climate change, peak oil and the financial crisis. In our view, putting the banks under public control is a logical conclusion of the urgently needed Green New Deal proposals.

    Jim Jepps blogs at the Daily (Maybe) and Rupert Read is one of the 15 Green Party councillors in Norwich and prospective MEP for Eastern Region

  • Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
    Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.

    Interview: Queer British Art
    James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art

    Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
    Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs

    Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
    Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox

    Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
    Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

    Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
    Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

    Editorial: Empire will eat itself
    Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

    Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
    Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

    Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
    With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

    Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
    The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

    Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
    Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite

    Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
    Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead

    Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
    Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee

    Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
    Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power

    The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
    Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced

    India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
    Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya

    North Korea is just the start of potentially deadly tensions between the US and China
    US-China relations have taken on a disturbing new dimension under Donald Trump, writes Dorothy Guerrero

    The feminist army leading the fight against ISIS
    Dilar Dirik salutes militant women-organised democracy in action in Rojava

    France: The colonial republic
    The roots of France’s ascendant racism lie as deep as the origins of the French republic itself, argues Yasser Louati

    This is why it’s an important time to support Caroline Lucas
    A vital voice of dissent in Parliament: Caroline Lucas explains why she is asking for your help

    PLP committee elections: it seems like most Labour backbenchers still haven’t learned their lesson
    Corbyn is riding high in the polls - so he can face down the secret malcontents among Labour MPs, writes Michael Calderbank

    Going from a top BBC job to Tory spin chief should be banned – it’s that simple
    This revolving door between the 'impartial' broadcaster and the Conservatives stinks, writes Louis Mendee – we need a different media

    I read Gavin Barwell’s ‘marginal seat’ book and it was incredibly awkward
    Gavin Barwell was mocked for writing a book called How to Win a Marginal Seat, then losing his. But what does the book itself reveal about Theresa May’s new top adviser? Matt Thompson reads it so you don’t have to

    We can defeat this weak Tory government on the pay cap
    With the government in chaos, this is our chance to lift the pay cap for everyone, writes Mark Serwotka, general secretary of public service workers’ union PCS

    Corbyn supporters surge in Labour’s internal elections
    A big rise in left nominations from constituency Labour parties suggests Corbynites are getting better organised, reports Michael Calderbank

    Undercover policing – the need for a public inquiry for Scotland
    Tilly Gifford, who exposed police efforts to recruit her as a paid informer, calls for the inquiry into undercover policing to extend to Scotland

    Becoming a better ally: how to understand intersectionality
    Intersectionality can provide the basis of our solidarity in this new age of empire, writes Peninah Wangari-Jones

    The myth of the ‘white working class’ stops us seeing the working class as it really is
    The right imagines a socially conservative working class while the left pines for the days of mass workplaces. Neither represent today's reality, argues Gargi Bhattacharyya

    The government played the public for fools, and lost
    The High Court has ruled that the government cannot veto local council investment decisions. This is a victory for local democracy and the BDS movement, and shows what can happen when we stand together, writes War on Want’s Ross Hemingway.

    An ‘obscure’ party? I’m amazed at how little people in Britain know about the DUP
    After the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists, Denis Burke asks why people in Britain weren't a bit more curious about Northern Ireland before now

    The Tories’ deal with the DUP is outright bribery – but this government won’t last
    Theresa May’s £1.5 billion bung to the DUP is the last nail in the coffin of the austerity myth, writes Louis Mendee