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human activity and the destruction of the planet


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How a Green New Deal will benefit us all

Taken from the Labour Party’s manifesto and written by Paul Halas, with acknowledgements also to:

https://watershed2015.wordpress.com/2019/10/18/how-a-green-new-deal-will-benefit-us-all-paul-halas/


There’s been a lot of excitement about Labour’s Green New Deal, but what does it involve and how will it affect us?

Burning up carbon deposits – in the form of oil, coal and gas – which were laid down over hundreds of millions of years, is pushing us to the brink of extinction. To avoid this we need to take some pretty drastic action and we’ll have to be prepared for major changes in the way we live, work, travel and even eat.

As part of its Green New Deal, Labour has undertaken to make the UK carbon neutral by 2030. This is how –

Some of the biggest changes will have to take place at the top, starting with the major international corporations – which carry the biggest responsibility for carbon emissions. They produce and sell both the fossil fuels and the machines and gadgets that cause climate change. By increasing tax on products and services that release more carbon, and reducing it on ones that cause less damage, big business can be made to do the right thing.

Greener energy will be a priority. Renewable energy sources now account for half our electricity, but to reach carbon neutrality by 2030 green energy must still be increased vastly. Labour plans to double offshore wind-powered generation, and will encourage local energy production – whether it’s from sun, wind or water, or a combination of them.

Transport and travel are major contributors to climate change. The Green New Deal will encourage greener ways of travelling, more sustainable technologies and better ways of making use of the resources we have. While they’re only a partial solution, the development and ownership of cars running on electricity from renewable sources will be helped, public transport will be improved and bus and rail networks widened. In the areas still not well served by public transport, vehicle-sharing schemes will be created.

Energy saving begins at home, and the Green New Deal proposes both a massive scheme of building new, energy-efficient homes and finding ways of improving existing buildings. There will be a major drive to insulate homes better, and the Conservatives’ tax increases on solar heating will be reversed.

Over time we’ll have to adapt our eating habits. Clearly, flying in foodstuffs from the four corners of the globe produces an unacceptable carbon footprint; equally, industrial-scale meat production releases an incredible amount of methane, another greenhouse gas. Producing more of our food closer to home will reduce our carbon output and help our economy, and a more plant-based diet will be less wasteful and in the end healthier.

Old systems will have to go as new technologies are developed. Much of our economy depends on technology and services that are no longer sustainable and will have no place in our greener future. Old systems will have to go as new technologies are developed. This will inevitably mean that some jobs disappear, but an expanding green economy will mean that more and better jobs will be created, and training will be provided for those who fill them. The green technological revolution will be funded by a £250 billion national investment scheme.

As well as a greener future, Labour’s Green New Deal aims to bring about a more equal future too. The excesses of the super-rich corporations will be curbed; tax avoidance will at last be tackled. The multimillionaire class have taken more and more, while the rest of us – the many – have been left with less and less. One way to tackle the problem is through taxation, and another is through localism – also known as Community Wealth Building. Many communities throughout the world are already benefiting from these schemes, and an increasing number of towns and cities in the UK are adopting them.

The idea is that communities and councils always give priority to local suppliers and services. For instance when building a new school, or hospital, or sports complex, etc, local firms will always be preferred to the big players to carry out the work. The same goes for services. Under the Labour Green New Deal local energy suppliers will be encouraged, especially if they are publicly-owned, or run by people’s co-operatives. Local credit unions will be created, house-building schemes, housing associations, food co-operatives – all manner of local enterprises – all creating fairly-paid, unionised jobs. That way money earned in the locality stays in the locality and benefits local people. It cuts down our carbon output by reducing transport of both people and goods, and encourages green technologies. It also creates a greater degree of equality and reduces our dependence on the big corporations. What’s not to like?

To prevent catastrophic climate change we’re all going to have to adapt to major changes. But they needn’t be daunting. We’re not going to go back to a pre-industrial age. We won’t have to cycle everywhere unless we want to, and we won’t have to live on a diet of turnips and pottage.

 

Many of the changes will be beneficial and will bring about a more equitable and contented society. They should be embraced.

These policies were mentioned in Jeremy Corbyn’s address to the 2019 Labour Party Conference and the Campaign against Climate Change Trade Union Group is campaigning on the Green New Deal as part of the Campaign against Climate Change which set up the One Million Climate Jobs campaign.



 


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Social justice and climate justice must go hand in hand by Stephen Pittam

Social justice and climate justice must go hand in hand

An article by Stephen Pittam on the “Rethinking Poverty” website:

In April I attended Ariadne’s annual meeting in Belfast. Ariadne is a European peer-to-peer network of over 600 funders and philanthropists who support social change and human rights. Participants enjoyed the special hospitality that Belfast always offers its visiting guests, including a tour of the peacelines and murals. And what could serve better to frame the final plenary for this event, which focused on Human Rights in a Changing Climate, than the climate change mural on the International Wall on the Falls Road in West Belfast. It sums up perfectly the reason why the climate justice movement and the social justice movement are so intricately intertwined. The world’s poorest are the most vulnerable to extreme weather and other climate events and have the least resources to cope with the impact. The image of who will suffer most as a result of climate change could equally apply to the domestic agenda in the UK.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has been in the forefront of work on climate change and social justice in the UK. Its 2014 overview of the field reviewed more than 70 studies and was a really useful document. It would be great if five years later it could be updated, but sadly the programme has ended.

Climate change affects the poorest in the UK most

Take transport for instance. The review highlighted the inequitable distribution of carbon emissions. The wealthiest 10 per cent of households in the UK were responsible for 10 times more carbon emissions from international aviation than the lowest, and 7-8 times more from personal transport. And yet little consideration has been given to how responsibility for emissions might inform responsibility for mitigation responses. The government’s overall domestic sustainable energy policies were forecast to produce a situation by 2020 where the richest 10 per cent of households might see an average reduction of 12 per cent in their energy bills while the poorest 10 per cent are expected to see a reduction of only 7 per cent.

The review describes multiple ways in which lower income and vulnerable groups are disproportionately affected by climate change and associated policies to address the crisis. But it also goes on to indicate that it is possible to achieve carbon reduction targets in a socially just way and that concrete examples of adaptation and mitigation practice are beginning to emerge at the local level, which also address social justice questions. This mirrors the experience of the Global Greengrants Fund, one of the sponsors of the final plenary at the Ariadne event, whose work has shown that local communities whose lives are most affected often come up with the best solutions to environmental harm and social injustice. The two themes are closely interconnected.

How can the UK meet its emissions targets?

Spurred on by the amazing activists of Extinction Rebellion, the school students’ strikes, and the initiatives of dozens of towns and cities across the UK, the UK government has now declared a climate emergency. In an attempt to create a positive legacy, Theresa May has recently pledged to introduce a legally binding target forcing the UK to meet net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Many will argue that this is too little too late, but the gulf between the rhetoric and reality feels huge at the moment given that the government is not even on track to meet its current significantly more modest targets.

It doesn’t have to be this way. It will take a radical change in policy and practice to get there, but it is possible to envision a different world. The last meeting of the UK-based Environmental Funders Network focused on the changes needed. Ed Miliband, Caroline Lucas and Laura Sandys introduced the new IPPR Environmental Justice Commission (of which they are the co-chairs) which aims to infuse the debate on climate change with hope and to confront the climate crisis with policies that promote social and economic justice.

Enter the Green New Deal

This initiative talks about the green transition, and has in many ways been inspired by the thinking which emerged in 2008 through the Green New Deal Group of which Caroline Lucas is a member. The Group’s 2008 report was, in my opinion, the best piece of analysis that came out of the financial crisis of that time. It proposed a labour-intensive green infrastructure programme which would tackle the crisis of climate change and help mitigate the effects of the huge economic downturn which the Group correctly predicted. It talked about rebuilding a sense of hope and creating economic security for all, while fully protecting the environment.

Sadly, once the immediate threat of economic collapse had receded, the country moved to the right and new Keynesian ideas were replaced with monetarist policies. We moved into the era of austerity – a policy of choice rather than necessity, which has led to further damage to the environment and fuelled the further rise of inequality and poverty.

Now, support for the Green New Deal is growing once more as the scale of the climate crisis has broken through into public consciousness. The idea, developed in the UK, has been exported to the USA where the name resonates so closely with Roosevelt’s original New Deal. There, it is championed by the charismatic, youngest-ever member of the House of Representatives, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The increased profile has resulted in the idea being imported back to the UK, where it was formally launched at the House of Commons on 1 April, into an environment that is far more worrying than in 2008 but potentially more favourable to receiving it.

Colin Hines, the primary author of the 2008 Green New Deal pamphlet, has described what a Social and Green New Deal would involve. It would mean rejecting austerity and instead massively increasing employment in face-to-face caring and a countrywide green infrastructure programme. The latter would involve making the UK’s 30 million buildings super-energy-efficient, and tackling the housing crisis by building affordable, properly insulated new homes. Local public transport would be rebuilt, the road and rail systems properly maintained, and a major shift to electric vehicles instigated. A more sustainable localised food and agricultural system would be developed. This approach is labour-intensive, takes place in every locality, and consists of work that is difficult to automate.

How would it be paid for? By an increase in government spending, fairer taxes and encouraging saving in what Hines has described as ‘climate war bonds’. And in the event of a further looming economic crisis? A massive Green Quantitative Easing (GQE) programme. After the last crash US$10 trillion was injected into the global economy, but not into job-generating investments. The result was inflated stock and property values for the already well off. The Governor of the Bank of England has hinted that some kind of GQE programme might be possible as a way of addressing climate change.

Integrating social justice in climate change policy

The JRF report concluded that it is not just a moral imperative to integrate social justice in climate change policy. Without this, achieving resilience and mitigation targets will be much harder because the transformation of our society that is needed cannot be achieved without the political and social acceptance that results from fairer policies. Furthermore, developing socially just responses to climate change, in terms of both adaptation and mitigation, is an opportunity to put in place governance, systems and infrastructure that will create a more resilient and fairer society. As Caroline Lucas concludes in a Guardian opinion piece published on 27 March, we need:

‘an unprecedented mobilisation of resources invested to prevent climate breakdown, reverse inequality, and heal our communities. It demands major structural changes in our approach to the ecosystem, coupled with a radical transformation of the finance sector and the economy, to deliver both social justice and a liveable planet.’

Rethinking poverty cannot be separated from the biggest issue of our time – addressing climate change. Successfully addressing climate change, though, will inevitably lead to a fairer, more equal society.

Stephen Pittam is a board member of Global Greengrants Fund and chair of Global Greengrants UK.


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Conversation between Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Greta Thunberg

July 9th 2019

Last weekend The Guardian published a long-distance conversation between AOC and GT.  It can be found here:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jun/29/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-met-greta-thunberg-hope-contagious-climate?utm_term=RWRpdG9yaWFsX0dyZWVuTGlnaHQtMTkwNzA1&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GreenLight&CMP=greenlight_email

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (29) is the youngest ever US congresswoman and Greta Thunberg is a 16 year-old Swedish schoolgirl.  Both of them overtly campaign against climate change and, in the conversation, discuss the issues and difficulties they have experienced whilst doing so.

In February, Ocasio-Cortez submitted the Green New Deal to the US House of Representatives, calling for, among other things, the achievement of “net-zero” greenhouse gases within a decade and “a full transition off fossil fuels”, as well as retrofitting all buildings in the US to meet new energy efficient standards. Thunberg has been campaigning both in Sweden and internationally for people to recognise the urgency of doing something about global warming and climate change.

In the course of their conversation, Ocasio-Cortez and Thunberg discuss what it is like to be dismissed for their age, how depressed we should be about the future, and what tactics, as an activist, really work. Ocasio-Cortez speaks with her customary snap and brilliance that, held up against the general waffle of political discourse, seems startlingly direct. Thunberg, meanwhile, is phenomenally articulate, well-informed and self-assured, holding her own in conversation with an elected official nearly twice her age and speaking in deliberate, thoughtful English. They are, in some ways, as different as two campaigners can get – the politician working the system with Washington polish, the schoolgirl working from her bedroom to reach the rest of the world. There is something very moving about the conversation between these young women, a sense of generational rise that, as we know from every precedent from the Renaissance onwards, has the power to ignite movements and change history.

Do click on the link above and read the full conversation.  It will inspire you to keep going in your own activism.

AOCGretaThunberg2

                      Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez                           Greta Thunberg