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Bookmark and ShareAndy Wimbush is nef‘s Communications Assistant and blogmaster. He also draws cartoons for nef‘s newspaper.

When he was Prime Minister, Tony Blair liked to pretend that Britain was ‘leading the world’ in the fight against climate change. Of course, the UK was never really leading in any meaningful sense: yes, we had a Climate Change Bill making a slow and convoluted journey through Parliament, but our efforts paled next to the renewables boom in Germany and Sweden. But Blair’s soundbite survived because, at the time, it was hard to quantify what ‘leading the world’ might mean.

These days it’s pretty obvious that Britain is not at the cutting-edge of climate change policy. We have a government which is doggedly pursuing the construction of coal-fired power stations and the expansion of airports,  damning the consequences for our planet, our economy and our civilisation.

Writing on Comment is Free, GND group member Jeremy Leggett wonders how we got stuck in a ‘grey old deal’ which bails out the car manufacturers rather than investing in a sustainable economy. Leggett explains how retrofitting old houses with insulation and energy efficient technologies in Germany has created 140,000 jobs and lowered emissions and energy use to boot. He also cites a new report from the Washington think-tank World Resources Institute which says that $1 billion of government investment in green recovery programmes would create 30,000 jobs. Let’s imagine that this same equation held true for the UK: if we take the £37 billion which the British government has invested directly in bailing out the banks – a figure which leaves out the bigger picture of extra, hard-to-quantify support which propped up the banks – that money could have created well over 1.5 million green sector jobs.

The rest of the globe is moving rather faster, with the Guardian reporting that ‘calls for “green new deals” are coming from every part of the world‘. The Financial Times has a neat little graphic which lets you compare the ‘greeness’ of the stimulus packages for different nations, both by volume of expenditure and by percentage of overall stimulus spending. As reported previously, South Korea has been enthusiastic about the Green New Deal, so it’s not surprising that the UK’s stimulus plan looks pretty paltry by comparison. What’s more striking is that the UK is now being eclipsed in its environmental ambitions by those countries normally thought of as big polluters – the ‘climate criminals’ of the USA and China:

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Green bail-outs by percentage

Today, Gordon Brown is holding a ‘low-carbon summit‘ with business leaders, unionists and select members of the environmental movement, in which he will discuss how the UK might boost the economy via a ‘Green New Deal’. The target for job creation is rather modest, however: Ed Miliband suggested 400,000. Which is better than the 100,000 previously mentioned by Brown, but still much lower than needed. And those green activists who’ve been left outside the conference have reminded us that this Government doesn’t exactly have a good track record on helping low-carbon business: Peter Mandelson, the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, was ‘slimed’ on his way to the summit by Plane Stupid‘s Leila Deen who was protesting his closed-door meetings with BAA corporate lobbyists.

The Financial Times also reports on how the world will quickly lose the opportunity to re-engineer the economy along  low-carbon lines unless more nations follow South Korea’s ambitious example. If the UK really wants to be a pioneer, to be remembered in the history books as a nation which helped rather than hindered the creation of a sustainable future, our Government has a lot of work to do.

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UPDATE: Gordon Brown’s call for a Green New Deal is now the top story at Number10.gov.uk. Watch Brown, Mandelson and Miliband talk about it in this video:

I can’t help but ask why a Prime Minister needs to ‘call for a Green New Deal’. Surely that’s our job, as citizens. His job is to make the thing happen.

Bookmark and ShareAndy Wimbush is nef‘s Communications Assistant and blogmaster. He also draws cartoons for nef‘s newspaper.

green-new-deal-round-up

The Local Government Association has published a new report entitled Creating Green Jobs: Developing local low-carbon economies in which they call for a Green New Deal ‘to promote a green pathway out of recession’. In Public Service Magazine, LGA Chairman Paul Bettison writes

there remains an urgent need to press ahead with action to tackle climate change – the greatest long-term threat to our future prosperity and security. This makes economic and environmental sense. If we do not start to act, the economic consequences will be far graver in the future – recession or not. […] Creating a low carbon economy will develop new markets and new businesses. At a time when we are seeing redundancies on an almost daily basis, the LGA estimates that thousands of new green jobs could be created – jobs that would help save carbon, reduce fuel poverty and protect those parts of the country at greatest risk from climate change.

Well, absolutely. It’s encouraging to see that the social justice element of the Green New Deal is being brought out. Investment in a low carbon future will not only bring about emissions reductions, it will also give us the opportunity to create a fairer, more just society, as nef has argued in two recent reports (Tackling Climate Change, Reducing Poverty and Green Well Fair). Local governments and communities will have a major role to play in this aspect of the Green New Deal: nef will be publishing more on this issue later in 2009.

It’s also striking that the LGA is merely the latest QUANGO to start calling for a Green New Deal, after the Environment Agency voiced their support (here and here).  How many of the Government’s own organisations will have to champion the Green New Deal before Whitehall starts to listen?

Pressure isn’t just mounting from below: it’s coming from outside as well. In Nairobi, the United Nations has once again called on governments to adopt a Green New Deal programme which will stabilise the economy, address climate change and lift millions out of poverty. At a time when discussion of the economy drowns out almost every other concern, it’s refreshing to hear UNEP saying that “Reviving the world economy is essential, but measures that focus solely on this objective will not achieve lasting success.” More at Reuters.

Finally, Green New Deal group member Colin Hines has been talking to members of Transition Town Totnes about economics and the role of government.  Read the transcript of his lecture at Rob Hopkins’ Transition Culture blog.

Bookmark and ShareAndy Wimbush is nef‘s Communications Assistant and blogmaster.

I mentioned a while back that Lord Chris Smith, chairman of the Environment Agency, has emerged as a enthusiastic advocate for the Green New Deal. Now, in an interview with the Observer, Lord Smith has criticised Gordon Brown’s environmental agenda for being incoherent, empty and inadequate. Brown talks about a Green New Deal, but hasn’t matched his words with effective action. Smith says:

Why on earth don’t we take a leaf out of Barack Obama’s book and put green technology right at the heart of the economic stimulus package that we believe the government is wanting to put together for the budget?

Why indeed. The case for a Green New Deal is stronger than ever. New research from the Environmental Industries Commission says that a Green New Deal in the UK could create 300,000 jobs. Meanwhile, over at Comment is Free, Brendan Barber describes how a global Green New Deal could be financed using a form of reserve currency known as ‘special drawing rights’ (SDR):

In terms of job creation, economic stimulus and support for long-term growth – not to mention warding off climate disaster – nothing is likely to provide bigger benefits than investment in climate protection.

Fortunately, some local governments are not paralysed by the inertia which has suffocated Downing Street. In Sheffield, preparation is underway for a Green New Deal conference on 28th February, supported by the city council. Speakers include GND authors Larry Elliott and Colin Hines. For more information and details about how to register, visit: http://www.sheffieldgreennewdeal.org.uk/

green-well-fair_shadow-and-nudgedAt nef, we’re continuing to develop ideas about ways in which the economic crisis and climate change can be tackled together, with social justice as crucial stepping stone between the two.  Last month, our report Tackling Climate Change, Reducing Poverty – co-produced with our colleagues from the Roundtable on Climate Change and Poverty in the UK – addressed this issue.  This week, we have a new pamphlet from our social policy team, exploring how we might restructure the welfare state to help us tackle the joint challenges of climate change and economic meltdown. Green Well Fair calls for a new social settlement which moves beyond dependence on the market economy, towards valuing the other, forgotten economies of people and planet. Download it for free or order a printed copy here.

Bookmark and ShareAndy Wimbush is nef‘s Communications Assistant and blogmaster.

obamanewdealAs promised, here’s the second half of this week’s Green New Deal round-up, featuring none other than the 44th President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama.

Yesterday afternoon, the relentless pace of thinking and doing that usually characterises life at nef headquarters was momentarily put on hold as we gathered to watch the inauguration speech. Murmours rippled around the office whenever Obama mentioned a topic which strayed into new economics territory. Early on, Obama spoke of the “greed and irresponsibility” which has brought the economy to its knees. Cue nods from those researching ethics in the new economy. Obama later described how “all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness”. Some whispers from our well-being team. But the new President received the most oohs and aahs from us whenever he touched on climate change and the environment. The issue wasn’t centre stage, but after eight years of denial and ignorance, we finally have an American government which is ready to make progress on these issues.

Which is just as well really: James Hansen – NASA climate scientist extraordinaire – has already warned Obama that he has only four years in which to act if we are have any chance at all of stopping extreme climate change. Hansen’s admonition is even starker than nef‘s One Hundred Months campaign, which gives us less than 95 months – or just under eight years – to make the necessary changes. But whether it happens in his first term, or his second, it’s clear that Obama is going to be the most pivotal figure in the fight to stop global warming.

Although the phrase has been repeatedly associated with his economic and energy policies, Obama has been blowing hot and cold on the subject of a Green New Deal. Shortly after being elected, he seemed to rule out a New Deal-style programme by saying that “to simply recreate what existed back in the 30s in the 21st century… would be missing the boat”. But many of his promises to create jobs by rebuilding American infrastructure have certainly echoed Roosevelt’s earlier programme. And his address yesterday leaned further towards the Green New Deal, describing how the new America would “harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories”. Let’s just hope that ‘soil’ translates as geothermal energy rather than biofuels. Check out BBC environment correspondent Richard Black’s very thorough dissection of the green content of the address at his blog.

Perhaps the most moving moments in the speech came towards the end, as Obama compared our situation today with that of America’s founders: “a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river” in 1776. He then quoted the words of Thomas Paine:

“Let it be told to the future world…that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive…that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].”

Our ‘common danger’ today is not so singular: it is a triple crunch of climate change, energy depletion and economic meltdown, with all the associated conflict, famine and social upheaval which those crises fuel. But the broad point remains: the existence of a ‘future world’ very much depends on the decisions we make right now. Let’s make them good ones.

Bookmark and ShareAndy Wimbush is nef‘s Communications Assistant and blogmaster.

newdealThere’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:

Bookmark and ShareAndy Wimbush is nef‘s Communications Assistant and blogmaster.

Another busy week for the Green New Deal as Japan announces plans to create “millions” of jobs in the green technology sector. Environment Minister Tetsuo Saito told reporters that he had received orders from Japan’s Prime Minister to “draft a Green New Deal plan”. More on this at Bloomberg.

In the US, Barack Obama has given his first public address after being elected in November. Last Thursday he revealed some of his plans to help the ailing American economy, including several hints of a Green New Deal:

“To finally spark the creation of a clean energy economy, we will double the production of alternative energy in the next three years. We will modernize more than 75% of federal buildings and improve the energy efficiency of two million American homes, saving consumers and taxpayers billions on our energy bills. In the process, we will put Americans to work in new jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced – jobs building solar panels and wind turbines; constructing fuel-efficient cars and buildings; and developing the new energy technologies that will lead to even more jobs, more savings, and a cleaner, safer planet in the bargain.”

Thanks to Beth Daley and Jeremy Williams for the tip. You can read the full text of Obama’s speech here.

Closer to home, some founder members of the Green New Deal Group had a letter in the Guardian last week about the inadequacy of Gordon Brown’s action on green jobs thus far. And today, leading environmentalists – including nef‘s Andrew Simms – have accused the government of destroying thousands of job opportunities by failing to support low carbon technology with subsidies.

tackling-climate-change-reducing-povertyThe reality is that action on  climate change is crucial if we are to weather the recession. A report published by nef today on behalf of a new coalition of environment and social justice NGOs argues that substantial green investment would combat the downturn and lift thousands of people in the UK out of poverty. The poorest people in this country will suffer hardest from the effects of climate change, such as heatwaves and flooding. But if we take intelligent action now to cut our carbon emissions, there could be benefits to people on low-incomes. Re-skilling for green jobs would tackle unemployment, home insulation programmes would fight fuel poverty, and improvements to low-carbon public transport would help those without cars.

The report, Tackling Climate Change, Reducing Poverty is available to download for free from the nef website.

Bookmark and ShareAndy Wimbush is nef‘s Communications Assistant and blogmaster.

We’ve had some very encouraging endorsements of the Green New Deal – from the UN, from the Environment Agency and from the IEA – but aside from some lofty promises from Barack Obama, there has been little in the way of national programmes along GND lines.

raising the standard of green investmentUntil now, that is. A couple of days ago the government of South Korea announced that it would invest 50 trillion Won – £25.2 billion – over the next four years on environmental projects which will create nearly a million jobs. According to the Associated Press, the money will be directed to “energy conservation, recycling, carbon reduction, flood prevention, development around the country’s four main rivers and maintaining forest resources”.

Our government should take note. Gordon Brown will meet with business and union leaders at a summit on Monday to discuss the jobs crisis. He’ll no doubt remind them of his promise to create 100,000 jobs by investing in public services, infrastructure and green technology. Mr Brown has, however, given no indication of when these jobs will be available. Compare this South Korea’s plan. Despite having a lower GDP than the UK, and a smaller population, their government is aiming at 140,000 new green jobs in 2009 alone. Surely we can match this?

London City Hall is also getting in on the green jobs action. After announcing that he was in favour of some Green New Deal policies at the end of last year, Boris Johnson is launching a scheme to “retrain Londoners left unemployed by the economic downturn as energy efficiency advisers in a drive to make the capital greener”, reports the Guardian. It’d be fantastic news if he actually pulls it off, but as the Guardian’s leader observed on Tuesday, “Green new jobs are fast becoming the political equivalent of a new year’s diet – a commitment nearly everyone yearns to make but finds damnably difficult to put into practice.”

Finally, Australian think-tank, the Centre for Policy Development, has a good round-up of the some of the best ideas for tackling the financial crisis with green solutions. A Green New Deal is one of the publications mentioned.

Bookmark and ShareAndy Wimbush is nef‘s Communications Assistant and blogmaster.

newdealHappy New Year, blog readers! 2009 is going to be a key year for us here at nef, and probably a make-or-break year for climate change and energy policy.  Naturally, our politicians will remain preoccupied with the world’s economic woes. Which is why the Green New Deal – a series of  joined-up solutions to the triple crunch of peak oil, climate change and recession – still matters. Any action on the economy which fails to take into account climate and energy, and also social justice, will simply condemn us to more difficult problems in the years ahead.

I’m happy, then, to report that ideas related to the Green New Deal are still in the headlines, and the nef blog will continue to track these hits as they occur.

I expect that most of this year’s GND chat will revolve around Barack Obama, who has assembled a crack team of environmental advisors ahead of his inauguration later this month. He has also appointed Hilda Solis as his labour secretary, a prominent advocate of green job creation. More on this at the Independent.

Gordon Brown “promises” to follow Obama’s plan with a New Deal-esque plan with climate change at the centre:

His promise to use public money not only to create short-term jobs, but also to build a low-carbon economy for the future, will be seen as a modern reworking of Roosevelt’s New Deal – a massive programme of public works, such as dams and roads, to help America recover from the Great Depression. Brown even claimed his green plans would be bigger than Barack Obama’s planned multi-billion-dollar “Green New Deal”, relative to the size of Britain’s economy.

Read the rest at the Observer. With airport expansions and new coal-fired power stations still very much a possibility, I’m not going to get excited yet. Brown still has his work cut out if he wants to counter the stall on renewables caused by the credit-crunch related decline of oil prices.

Finally, the Financial Times consulted several leading economists about the prospects for economic recovery in 2009. nef‘s Andrew Simms was a voice crying in the wilderness as he suggested that economic policies must be directed towards tackling climate change, and cited the Green New Deal the best way forward.

Bookmark and ShareAndy Wimbush is nef‘s Communications Assistant and blogmaster.

newdealLast week’s papers had a couple of great comment pieces on the Green New Deal and related matters.

In the Times, Camilla Cavendish wonders about the future of British jobs now that retailers are folding and banks cutting staff. “The new world,” she writes, “wll clearly not invole graduate lemmings hurtling towards banking.” Her proposed alternative to these job markets is the renewable energy sector, supported by a Green New Deal. Cavendish then explains how Britain is well “behind the green curve” compared to Germany, Denmark and Spain, and makes some proposals for how the stimulate green investment. It’s well worth reading the whole thing.

Andrew Rawnsley’s piece in the Observer has less of green feel (he starts by talking about a recent holiday in the US and I presume he didn’t swim there) but he does make a strong argument for a Keynesian restructuring of the economy, with investment in clean energy and high speed rail. His essential point is that spending on green technology “will cost a fraction of the billions which have been committed to the feckless banks.” In other words, if you’re going to spend, at least spend it wisely. Read the rest here.

The Independent on Sunday’s leader compares the mediocre compromises of the UN climate talks in Poznan with the promise of Barack Obama. While liberals might be revolting over Obama’s Lincolnesque “team of rivals”, at least two of his core advisors – energy secretary Stephen Chu and transition team manager John Podesta – have some laudable green credentials. The leader explains that not only is Obama geared up to start a Green New Deal at home, he is also set to lead international progress on climate change mitigation. Well, let’s hope so – 2009 is pretty much our last chance to get a global agreement in place.

Finally, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has followed his colleagues at UNEP in calling for a Green New Deal.

Bookmark and ShareAndy Wimbush is nef‘s Communications Assistant and blogmaster.

newdealJust a few things to report on top of last week’s major announcement from the Environment Agency in support of a Green New Deal.

A Green New Deal gets some comprehensive coverage over at Ekklesia – a very thoughtful web-based Christian thinktank.

Last Thursday heard more calls for a Green New Deal from GND authors Jeremy Leggett and Caroline Lucas, as well as journalist and climate activist extraordinaire George Monbiot. They were speaking at a event hosted by the Public Interest Research Centre for the launch of their new report Climate Safety. Anyone interested in nef‘s One Hundred Months campaign or A Green New Deal would do well to have a look at it – the full text is available absolutely free online.

And finally, Van Jones – who has been demanding a Green New Deal in the US – speaks to the Centre for American Progress in this video.

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nef employees blog in their personal capacity. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the new economics foundation.