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Bookmark and ShareAndrew Simms is nef‘s Policy Director and head of nef’s Climate Change programme.

Hard hats to symbolise a Green New Deal, handed out by Avaaz during last Saturday's demonstration (© Avaaz.org 2009)

Hard hats to symbolise a Green New Deal, handed out by Avaaz during last Saturday's demonstration (© Avaaz.org 2009)

The UK economy faces a triple crunch: a recession triggered by a major credit crisis, the looming reality of runaway climate change and critical resource depletion. As a result we face serious challenges to our livelihoods and increasing threats to our fuel and food security.

Whatever the mistakes that allowed this situation to arise, there is growing international consensus that the best way out is via a green new deal policy package. Parts of the UK economy are in freefall with unemployment rising rapidly. At the same time, with less than 100 months to go before the world enters a new, more dangerous phase of global warming, there is an urgent need for the rapid environmental transformation of the economy.

A green new deal demands a comprehensive array of new checks and balances on the financial sector and a range of new economic instruments ranging from new bonds to business incentives and taxes. At its heart is an environmental stimulus package designed to begin the rapid environmental transformation of UK businesses, while simultaneously softening the worst impact of the recession, creating countless jobs in the environmental and renewable energy sector – often referred to as green-collar jobs – and laying the foundations for a truly green recovery.

Possibly for the first time in history, the green new deal could propel environmental measures to the heart of economic policy and decision making. The way that the UK government handles this challenge will reveal its aptitude for crisis management.

It’s possible to test that aptitude by looking at what has been done to date, and comparing it with a range of other policy measures. The simple, telling question is: what is the government doing that is new and additional to stimulate the economy by spending on the environment?

The answer indicates that the government is missing a huge opportunity – the chance to boost the economy, ensure energy security and act on climate change by directing new and additional resources into the environmental transformation of the economy.

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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.