Green New Deal 2.0: Activists revitalise UK climate change plan

Proposal seeks massive economic transformation and is backed by MP Caroline Lucas, who designed original framework.

Climate change demonstration in London
Protesters hold placards at a climate change demonstration in London, UK, on June 26, 2019 [Hannah McKay/Reuters]

The progressive think-tank Common Wealth has published a 10-point Green New Deal plan for the United Kingdom to transform public finance and tackle the climate emergency.

In a report released on Thursday the British advocacy organisation – in conjunction with parliament members, activists, and policymakers – calls for an investment overhaul to decarbonise the economy and create millions of new jobs. 

The group hopes to create 100 percent renewable energy, an improved public transportation system, and zero-carbon housing for all.

“A UK Green New Deal is vital to our future, and to the future of the 1.4 million young people who have joined inspiring school climate strikes across the globe,” said UK Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.

She called the new vision an “economic plan for a rapid transition”.

In 2008, Lucas was one of the authors of the seminal UK Green New Deal, the first comprehensive climate proposal in Britain to use such branding. The new blueprint builds upon the document published by the Green New Deal Group over a decade ago. 

Global members in the Green Party had initially coined the idea of a Green New Deal in 2006, which was then adopted by British activists and the United Nations Environment Programme. Then, Green Party candidates in the United States included the concept in their political platforms. Subsequently, US Democrats in 2018 began popularising the term further – coinciding with an explosion of climate justice proposals. 

“Ten years on from the original UK Green New Deal I was proud to be a part of, a transformation of our economy towards sustainability and justice is more urgent than ever,” Lucas said.

“We must reject the false dichotomy of economics and climate change mitigation,” she added, saying that the proposal would “provide a future with good jobs and clean energy for all”.

‘Ultimately a hopeful one’

The UK’s main opposition Labour party has been calling for a Green New Deal, and this proposal outlines what form that might take.

“The time for incrementalism has passed,” said Clive Lewis, a Labour MP for Norwich South. “The climate emergency demands an emergency response – a bold, government-led action.”

“Labour is committed to rewriting the Treasury rulebooks to green all future public investment and deliver a Green Industrial Revolution,” Lewis added. “This report sets out exactly the kind of ambition our politics needs in the face of climate crisis.”


Matthew Lawrence, the plan’s author and the director of Common Wealth, said he believes the climate crisis is, in fact, a “political crisis” that can be solved only by “the movements and communities on the front line of change”.

An independent think-tank that has been influential in the formation of the UK left’s recent economic ideas, Common Wealth is backed by the European Climate Foundation and seeks to pass aggressive new climate legislation at the national level.

“Things are actually a lot worse than they were 10 years ago,” Lawrence told Al Jazeera. “Cumulatively, there’s a lot more carbon in the air.”

He said the plan should be funded by taxation – on wealth, pollution, and carbon-intense activity – as well as by government borrowing and private financing.

“The more we frontload investment now, the cheaper it will be for consumers later on,” said Lawrence, describing the new sense of urgency that has led to a groundswell of global public support for ambitious climate proposals.

Things are actually a lot worse than they were 10 years ago. Cumulatively, there's a lot more carbon in the air.

by Matthew Lawrence, Common Wealth

“This is a daunting collective project, but ultimately a hopeful one,” Lawrence added. “We can build a future that is democratic, equal and sustainable for all.”

“Now we need the political ambition to match the scale of emergency confronting us,” he said, describing the collective challenge as “our greatest ever”.

‘Existential threat’

The plan says annual investment over the next decade to reach the goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 could amount to three to five percent of the gross domestic product.

The target is to reduce emissions by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, to prevent a temperature rise of over 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Rebecca Newsom, an activist with Greenpeace UK, said that the “existential threat of climate change can and must be turned into an opportunity to restructure our entire economy if we’re to make the most of this moment and reverse the injustices of poverty and social inequality.”

“From warmer homes to more renewables, a sustainable food system and much more, this report helps illustrate what some of these solutions could look like, and the route needed to get there,” Newsom added, referring to building efficiency standards and a more ecological way to feed people.

The plan contains details about scaling back meat and dairy consumption, as well as air travel. It demands “ambitious electric vehicle transformation, scaling down of private car travel”.

It also points to carbon sinks and reforestation as ways of keeping down levels of greenhouse gases. In addition, Common Wealth’s proposal calls for a sharp reduction in waste and a major increase in recycling.

Source: Al Jazeera