There’s a lot of Green New Deal news this week, so I’ll take it in stages. Today, the fall-out from the confirmation that Heathrow Airport will get a third runway. Tomorrow, I’ll say something about this afternoon’s inauguration of President Barack Obama.
Just before the announcement on Heathrow, the newspaper comment pages were overflowing with the pros and cons of expansion. The prospect of new jobs at the airport was enough for TUC leader Brendan Barber to support the new runway. Simon Jenkins was less convinced, pointing out that there are plenty of ways to create jobs – such as by improving healthcare infrastructure – which don’t involve flattening villages. Indeed, as Greenpeace’s Joss Garman points out, we need to get our jobs from a Green New Deal, not from more airports. He asks:
Should Britain be building a sustainable economy with a green fiscal package centred on creating millions of green-collar jobs? Or do we plough on with the industries of the past irrespective of their impact on disadvantaged people all around the world?
GND author and Green Party leader Caroline Lucas had a letter in the Times on the day after the decision came, arguing that, despite the double-talk of Brown and Hoon, there is simply ‘no such thing as a “green” airport‘. Like Garman, she attacked those who used economic arguments to justify the expansion:
It’s simply laughable to say that “the jobs outweigh the climate danger”. First, climate change will wreak havoc on the world’s economy. Second, the greening of our economy will require us to create huge numbers of jobs across many sectors, not least transport. Hence the need for a Green New Deal. It really is time to ditch the false ideology of environment versus economics.
The trouble is that what passes for ‘economics’ under this government is a mixture of vain hope and voodoo. As nef‘s Policy Director Andrew Simms explained to the Guardian,
You are talking about a highly carbon-intensive piece of infrastructure that might be finished at exactly the moment when global oil production is collapsing and its price is rocketing. The government’s case is based on fantasy economics.
We need to wake up to the fact that the expansion isn’t about jobs for ordinary people. It’s about big business getting it’s way, regardless of how the rest of us are affected. And, yes, I realise that any argument about corporate influence over politicians sounds trite to the point of being a cliché, but the reason it’s repeated so often is because it’s largely true. The news that there is a ‘revolving door’ between Downing Street, Whitehall and airport operator BAA, is shocking, infuriating, but hardly surprising.
What is surprising is the silver lining to this sordid collusion between BAA and New Labour: the Conservatives are green again! With impeccable timing, the Tories announced their plans for a green revolution just as our Heathrow rage had reached its zenith. Their plans? A £1 billion “super-grid” of high voltage direct current power cables, which will save enormous amounts of energy compared with today’s alternating current cables. They’re also promising grants of £6,500 per household to help people invest in insulation and energy efficiency measures. Good old George Monbiot, who first suggested many of these ideas in his book Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning, can hardly believe that they are finally being taken seriously, let alone by the Conservatives. And as Brown and Darling continue to mess around with more taxpayer-funded bank bail-outs, it is Cameron who seems more clued up about how a Green New Deal might actually work:
The stuff in [our proposal paper] will help employ people and bring jobs. We have got to do things that are both good for us now and good for the future.
If Cameron can convince us that he will make good on these promises, then he might catch a rising wave of enthusiasm for green economic recovery. Witness the following articles, all of which mention nef or the Green New Deal:
- Please, No 10, can we have a green policy? – Lord Chris Smith of the Environment Agency pleads Downing Street for a Green New Deal in the Sunday Times.
- Overnight, the US is going green – but we’re stuck in a different age – Geoffrey Lean wonders where our Green New Deal is in the Independent on Sunday.
- How can Labour still fear to act for a fairer, greener land? – Jenni Russell laments New Labour’s failure on economic policy in yesterday’s Guardian.
- Green light for a boom in jobs – a nice piece in the Sunday Times, featuring nef‘s Policy Director, Andrew Simms.