Greater community engagement, the imperative for national carbon budgets, and the need to recognize and harness the power of central and public banks are takeaways identified by British Columbia sustainability specialist Guy Dauncey in a recent analysis of 10 Green New Deals published in the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and Canada.
With the goal of providing both policy-makers and the public with a toolbox for GND design, Dauncey goes into a detailed comparison of policy platforms and resolutions generated by Democratic presidential hopefuls Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Washington Governor (and former Democratic candidate) Jay Inslee, the U.S. congressional resolution introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and plans published by the U.S. Green Party, Democracy in Europe (DiEM-25), Canada’s Green Party and NDP, and the UK’s Green New Deal Group (GND-UK) and Labour Party.
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Across the 10 platforms, Dauncey traces the policy responses of authors who more or less agree on the urgent need for “a coherent economic response to a myriad of crises” that launches “a new, green, co-operative economy that is human-friendly, community-friendly, climate-friendly, and nature-friendly.”
Dauncey evaluates each program according to 28 broad categories, including its alertness to the latest climate science, its focus on climate adaptation and resilience, its plan to achieve 100% clean, renewable electricity by 2030 (a goal articulated in nine of the 10 plans), its approach to food, farming, and forests, and its engagement with local and regional economies and front-line communities. He also looks at how aggressively the plans tackle the fossil industry and military spending, and how far “into the weeds” they go on transportation, housing and buildings, and education and training.
What his review does not address, Dauncey emphasizes, is either the technical or the political viability of any of the frameworks.
The analysis reveals some fascinating silences. For example, Ocasio-Cortez’ congressional resolution formally declares neither a climate nor an ecological emergency, and “only DiEM-25 and GND-UK acknowledge that we are in an ecological emergency as well as a climate emergency,” Dauncey writes. That gap shows that “we are a long way from a proper understanding of the policies and measures needed to tackle this parallel emergency,” he adds.
Dauncey’s decision to present his findings via a series of checkmarks in rows and columns also underscores patterns of consensus among the plans, as well as the outliers. For example, the Canadian New Democrats’ New Deal for People appears markedly thin on detail, even on imperatives like a just transition for fossil workers and communities.
All except DiEM-25 and the NDP pledge a 10-year mobilization to achieve their Green New Deal goals—but Dauncey concludes that none of the plans talks enough about community engagement. “None of the GNDs has embraced the importance of community-wide engagement, both to increase understanding of the emergencies among the public, where it is often dim or non-existent, and to overcome the propaganda of the climate-denying media, and to take personal actions to reduce our emissions in our homes, schools, and businesses,” he writes.
Recalling the essential role of volunteers on Britain’s home front during the Second World War, Dauncey stresses that while “GND policies are needed to remove barriers and create incentives…full mobilization will require widespread citizen engagement”, funded and supported by the GND initiatives themselves.
Dauncey adds that “none of the GNDs has recognized the need for legally-binding legislation that requires a government to achieve annual reductions according to a fixed carbon budget, as Britain has legislated.” Since “distant goals induce bureaucratic and political sleepiness,” he says, some kind of “personal financial consequences will be needed for all members of a cabinet which collectively misses the goals.”
Dauncey also finds only limited emphasis on the latent funding power of central and public banks. “Only DiEM-25 and GND-UK appear to understand the power of a central bank to fund some or all of a Green New Deal,” he writes. “This can be done both directly, using its ability to print money to tackle the climate emergency just as it did in 2008 to save the banks, and indirectly, through the sale of tax-free green bonds.”
Zeroing in on the United States, he urges action by Congress “to scrap the 1930s legislation that Wall Street lobbied for that prohibits the Federal Reserve from creating money for the common good, and to harness the Fed’s money creation and lending powers to help finance major public objectives.” In Canada, given that “a persistent legal attempt has failed to get the government to acknowledge that since the bank is public it can create money to meet public needs,” he calls for legislation to “reassert what is already a reality”.
Dauncey writes that several of the plans “appear not to appreciate the essential role of public banks, and their ability to create money for loans at zero or very low interest”. Yet “this is how Germany has been financing its building retrofit program, through the publicly-owned KfW Development Bank.”
As for other weak spots, Dauncey observes that “only GND-UK gives the attention needed to cycling as a serious means of future transportation and urban calming,” while “only Jay Inslee and the Green Party of Canada seem to have appreciated the importance of carbon sequestration and storage in forests, and the need for widespread changes to forest management practices.” Canadian Greens and DiEM-25, meanwhile, have the only plans that include blueprints to re-establish a healthy ocean and sustainable fisheries. All the plans but GND-UK leave rapidly-rising aviation emissions unaddressed, and “only DiEM-25 is willing to tackle the problem of meat and dairy, the production of which is responsible for 15% of global emissions.”
He adds that “none of the GNDs wants to put its toes in the troubled waters of questioning future economic growth, or how a future without growth could still bring prosperity and well-being.”
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“New talk of “helicopter money” strategies (whereby a central bank would create new credit and directly inject it into the real economy, to support investment, government programs, or consumption) confirms that if we collectively decide we need it, and enforce our will on our political and monetary leaders, we could create all the money needed to finance real, productive work.
So long as millions are languishing without a job, there does not appear to be a good argument against doing so. To the contrary, if it helps us put an end to pollution (including greenhouse gases) and poverty, an all-out war-like mobilization seems like a no-brainer. Living standards would grow, taxes would be paid, the environment would be protected, and real GDP would grow rapidly…..”