Is a Green New Deal the answer to the climate crisis?

By Jim Hayes

We are hearing a lot about the climate crisis: droughts, fire, rising sea levels, the loss of food and water security. A lot has been said about the disproportionate impact on indigenous peoples, women and the less well off.

Voices are calling out for action that compels governments to take the threat on, and reduce carbon emissions to a sustainable level and build a zero-increase economy.

The political establishment has failed to act and various proposals for a new Green Deal have been raised. They have their supporters and detractors. The view put forward here, is that the title is not so important. It is the content that matters.

More precisely, a Green New Deal that relies on promises and leaves it to the same political establishment to implement, is going to be a dead end. Even one put forward by better leaders and leaving the rest of us as mere spectators isn’t going to work.

Powerful forces exist, which will frustrate serious attempts at change. The reality of political power, existing across institutions and certain social networks is critical. Parliament may have some authority. Functionaries, legalinstitutions, police and military ultimately have theirs, and this does not count the boardrooms, industry bodies, Financial institutions, close associations, and donations and handshakes industry. they all exercise their own power.

The ideas for a Green New Deal first emerged in the United States. They have now become part of Bernie Sander’s platform. Like the first New Deal, which provided an answer to the 1930’s economic crisis, through government subsidising infrastructure projects to create jobs and redistribute income downwards, it is said that, the Green New Deal will do something similar with the climate crisis, suggest its proponents.

The European Union is itself moving towards its own Green New Deal. A version of it called the The Green New Deal for Europe goes much further.

Like with its American counterpart. The argument is that since neoliberalism has been a major contributor to the climate crisis, a solution is only possible if both are tackled.

But what really sets it apart, is the insistence that a change cannot be brought about without empowering the population. This is much more than an empty slogan. The focus must be on putting in place practical mean for the population to participate. This means building new institutions of popular power.

Doing this would strip authority of the political establishment and thereby weaken its political power, as that of the population at the grass roots rises. This is nothing short of a political revolution.

Believing that this can be brought about purely through the usual electoral system, is to fall for the illusion that all political power is in the parliament. It is not going to happen.

The calls for a Green New Deal have not come from this quarter. They have emerged from the population and big a grass roots movement that has gained a significant and growing foothold around the world. It is exerting tremendous pressure on the political establishment and the corporations responsible for the bulk of carbon emissions.

It also provides a potential solution.

One of the emerging proposals is for the establishment of Peoples Assemblies. Under the Green New Deal for Europe, this would involve self-organising bodies, providing for open participation and decision making, and becoming a force for a truly democratic society, uniting the population along a shared goal of building a new future.

This future would be based on the principles of caring for each other and looking after the planet.

While the green economy is being built, not by the private sector, everyone must be involved, and care taken that no one will be left at a serious disadvantage. Everyone would have an adequate income, proper housing, medical and education services and more.

Ending neoliberalism will open the ground for public intervention around a socially worked out economic plan. Everyone will be expected to contribute. The cost should be borne according to the ability to pay. The wealthiest should be expected to contribute more, and the tax evasion industry must come to an end.

Building the economy will create more useful jobs, and sustainable growth will eventually cover a large part of the cost of restructuring.

The Green New Deal for Europe calls for the creation of a Green Public Works (GPW) body, to finance major projects through the European Investment Bank.

All projects for the new economy should incorporate the principle of workplace democracy. This means those who work in their construction and in them after construction, have a genuine major voice, through participation in discussion and their own elected committees and representation. This would set a standard for the new economy.

These are core arguments that support a version of a Green New Deal that will go much further.

We need our own here in Australia. It won’t be easy to get it rolling. Formidable forces are turned against it. This does not make it impossible. All it needs is enough people to be part of it. Given the perilous state of the world, ushering us into climate and economic chaos, is there really any other choice?

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