Climate change: How a green new deal really could go global. Good news is in short supply at the moment, so brace yourself for a rare burst of optimism about climate change. World leaders know their countries face one of the most severe recessions in history thanks to the coronavirus restrictions. That presents a unique challenge, but also a massive opportunity. Politicians know they are going to need to spend huge amounts of money to kick-start economic activity as the threat of coronavirus finally recedes. It is a one-off, never-to-be-repeated chance to transform their economies. So the question is, what will they spend it on? This week the European Union put its cards on the table. On Wednesday it unveiled what it is billing as the biggest “green” stimulus package in history. “This is about all of us and it is way bigger than any one of us,” announced Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, when she told European Parliament members what was planned. “This is Europe’s moment,” she said. As well as being a big step towards federalism, the recovery package puts fighting climate change at the heart of the bloc’s recovery from the pandemic. The scale of what is being proposed is mind-boggling. The headline figure is €750bn, but add in spending from future budgets and the total financial firepower the European Commission says it will be wielding is almost €2tn ($2.2tn). Joe Biden is reckoned to be planning a similarly huge green stimulus package for the US. The model is the vast investment projects of the New Deal that helped lift America out of the Great Depression in the 1930s. That was the defining policy of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Biden is reportedly preparing for his own “FDR-size presidency”, according to New York magazine. Renewables are now often cheaper than fossil fuels in large parts of the world. The technologies are proven and can be built at scale today. And most importantly, their cost follows the logic of all manufacturing – the more you produce, the cheaper it gets. The same logic applies to hydrogen and to electric vehicles. But it does not apply to fossil fuels, whose cost ultimately relies on mining ever more difficult and dwindling resources.
BBC 31st May 2020 read more »
This weekend The Irish Times presents a series of articles on remaking Ireland after the pandemic. As part of this, Prof Mariana Mazzucato of the University College London – a leading international economist and author – answered questions from Cliff Taylor about what should happen next. Mariana Mazzucato: This crisis, and the recovery we need, give us an opportunity to understand and explore how to do capitalism differently. This requires a rethink of what governments are for: rather than simply fixing market failures when they arise, they should move towards actively shaping and creating markets to take on society’s most pressing challenges. They should also ensure that partnerships with business involving government funds are driven by public interest, not profit. When private companies ask for bailouts from governments, we must consider the world we want to build for the future, and the direction of innovation that is needed to get there, and add conditions to these bailouts accordingly, to benefit public purpose, not just private. This will secure the direction of travel we want – green, sustainable, and equitable. When conditionalities are done well, they align corporate behaviour with the needs of society. In the short term, this focuses on preserving employment relations during the crisis and maintaining the productive capacity of the economy, whilst avoiding extraction of funds to financial markets and executive compensation. In the long-run, it is about ensuring that business models lead to more inclusive and sustainable growth.
Irish Times 29th May 2020 read more »
Next Lib Dem leader should embrace the Green New Deal. Historically, the Liberal Democrats have typically led the way on the green agenda in British politics. In coalition, as the minister for the now defunct Department for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey laid the groundwork for rapid growth in renewable energy. Yet at the last election, Labour and the Greens overshadowed the Liberal Democrats on the strength of their policies to deal with the climate emergency. The eye-catching policy of a Green New Deal offered a positive vision for a low-carbon future. The Green New Deal takes its inspiration from President Roosevelt’s New Deal, a package of measures to get the American economy working again following the Great Depression. Amid the climate crisis and the growing gap between rich and poor, the idea has received renewed attention. Coined by the American author Thomas Friedman over a decade ago, the concept has been promoted by various think-tanks and climate groups over the past decade. It has been adopted by the charismatic Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the United States, the UN have announced a ‘Global Green New Deal’ while the EU have plans for a ‘Green Deal’. The pandemic has only further highlighted the need for such a policy to ensure a green recovery that also prevents future virus outbreaks. Yet the Green New Deal remains a loose idea difficult to pin down to specific policy plans. Nevertheless, it stands for huge investments in renewable energy, the creation of green jobs, funding support for sustainable farming and the restoring of biodiversity.
Left Foot Forward 26th May 2020 read more »
The global call to turn the tragedy of the pandemic into an opportunity for a better world is growing. But what does it mean? Last week, British Green MP Caroline Lucas said we need to “dream big and bold”. She summed up polls of public opinion which have found that most people want a new economy that is around wellbeing. “Recent pandemics are a direct consequence of the economic goal of growth at any cost,” she said, referring to the IPBES (the UN’s equivalent of the IPCC for biodiversity). Tim Jackson, Director of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity said jobs are in energy efficiency – a “refurbishment army”– because these sectors are more labour intensive. “Frontline workers are green jobs especially since these low-paid workers are not big consumers, in the care, craft, and low impact practical jobs.” According to new calculations by Professor Martin Freer, director of the Birmingham Energy Institute, the effort required to decarbonise heat alone will be “monumental”, with 26 million homes in the UK and the vast majority needing new heating appliances. Moreover, the building stock typically has very poor insulation, and will need upgrading. New types of heating systems such as heat pumps will need installing. There will also be the opportunity for district heating schemes, which capture waste heat from industry, for example, and distribute it to homes and larger buildings. More hydrogen gas and bio methane in the gas grid means the gas grid itself will need upgrading. So will the electrical grid to cater for the increased electrical demand of heat pumps and electric vehicles, which in many places not only exceed what the national electricity grid can presently supply, but the local grid as well. Freer puts the cost at £500 billion (A$931 billion), and says that “the economic and infrastructure benefits will not be localised to certain regions in the UK, but everywhere. Everywhere will feel the economic uplift.
One Planet Centre 30th May 2020 read more »