A Socialist Green New Deal

In this document, we trace the development of a Green Socialist New Deal (GSND) from its origins in the ‘New Deal’ of the 1930s, to the more recent Green New Deal. We believe that the latter can only be effective in tackling the multiple crises of finance, climate change, environmental degradation, social and global justice, and peace through an eco-socialist alliance of workers and trade unions that challenges the current capitalist order.

We outline a set of interim policies in our GSND, concluding that these medium-term changes would reduce climate change and also enhance our democracy and human welfare.

History of New Deals

The ‘New Deal’ was a package of regulations, financial reforms, and public works in the USA introduced by President Franklin Roosevelt in response to the depression after 1929. It was designed to deliver “the three Rs” – Relief from poverty, economic Recovery and financial Reforms.

Whilst full employment was not restored until after the USA joined World War II in 1941 when public expenditure for the war effort doubled GDP, the New Deal led to significant economic recovery, major improvements in health, and growth in employment. Some New Deal programmes continue today, and the concept remains a powerful symbol of what governments can achieve when free-market mechanisms fail.

In 2008, a group of prominent individuals in Britain (Economist Ann Pettifor, Caroline Lucas MP, and The Guardian’s Larry Elliott and Tony Juniper published a set of proposals under the title ‘Green New Deal’ (GND) in response to the ‘triple crunch’ facing the world: the financial crisis in 2007-8, the acceleration of climate change and the triggering of soaring energy prices. This concept of a GND has enthused radical movements across the world, and versions have proliferated on both sides of the Atlantic.

However, most of these movements are confined to technical measures for addressing climate change, few addressing the root causes of climate change: environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity, poverty, inequality, and injustice. For eco-socialists, a GND must involve restructuring societies and economies through democratic discussion across all of society, including workers, unemployed people, pensioners, carers, and their organisations.

By 2019, after ten years of Tory austerity, both Labour and the Green Party included versions of the GND in their General Election manifestos. Both featured imaginative proposals to rejuvenate Britain’s infrastructure, energy systems, housing, transport, environment, health, and welfare. These were significant policy advances to build on but they have been insufficiently radical to address our problems and their causes successfully.

Transition to an Eco-Socialist Future

The survival of many species, including our own, requires a transition to a post-capitalist, democratic, green socialist future to be achieved by a new alliance of workers and eco-socialists. Our Green Socialist New Deal is properly understood as a stepping stone on the journey to that destination. The policies outlined here can be implemented swiftly in the context of Britain’s current institutions and economic framework. They begin the process of delivering radical change at local, regional, and national level.

Reduced Energy Demand and Expansion of Renewables

Our GSND requires immediate government action to reduce the use of coal, oil, and gas, consistent with Carbon Net Zero, by 2030. This objective will require a range of measures including the following:

  • Carbon accounting by companies: a requirement to measure and report the carbon emissions for which they are responsible
  • Carbon tax on industry and commerce, starting at £100 per ton and rising annually
  • Carbon budgeting and rationing at national, community, and household levels and the introduction of Personal Carbon Allowances starting at around half ton per month and reducing each year
  • Reductions in energy demand through home insulation, energy conservation, and modal shifts to electric mass transport
  • Major investments in renewable energy sources -solar, wind, wave, geothermal, hydro, and tidal
  • Massive growth in material re-use and recycling of manufactured goods, clothing, commodities, metals, building materials, and more, creating a near Zero Waste system and eliminating toxic landfill.

Two Million Plus Climate and Greeb Jobs

Studies indicate that moving to a carbon-free future can generate many good jobs, providing a Just Transition for those whose jobs are currently in carbon-intensive industries. Under GSND we will achieve the following:

  • Rapidly deploy workers to the fast-expanding renewable energy sectors (See above)
  • Create thousands of new jobs in construction and engineering as we shift from gas and oil to electricity, with the attendant requirement to upgrade the national grid
  • Employ builders, electricians, and fitters in large numbers to insulate millions of homes to new energy standards and install carbon-free heating
  • Expand jobs in the care sector and in organic agriculture/agro-forestry as we transition from a profit driven to a needs-based, sustainable economy
  • Launch a National Climate Service to co-ordinate regional and local action on climate

A Just Transition – Planned Work Transfer

The process of decarbonisation will be disruptive, resulting in major and rapid shifts in economic activity, rendering millions of jobs obsolete and creating a correlative requirement to create new, well-paid, and socially useful ones. We would develop national and regional plans to guarantee the creation of well-paid replacement jobs, with training and skills development in new low-carbon sectors.

It is vital that trade unions, workers, and communities design, lead, and cooperate in these plans, as well as all levels of government. We would ensure that new jobs provided safe and healthy working conditions in environmentally sustainable workplaces Workers would have the right to access information on the environmental impacts of their work and they would have whistleblower protection.

We would implement distributive measures to ensure that other social groups besides workers, including unpaid carers, the disabled, pensioners, and students, share fairly in the ecological and social benefits of the transition. The working week would allow more flexibility for workers and their families in terms of timing and number of hours/days at the workplace and at home.

Green Transport Revolution Reduce-Localise-De-Carbonise-Electrify-Integrate

Transport creates over 20% of carbon emissions. This must be reduced by over 90% by 2030. To achieve this, we shall reduce the need for transport by localising work, commerce, and services to each community. We shall ensure that essential services, like health, are available within 20 minutes for most people. We shall accelerate a comprehensive rollout of digital broadband technology, supporting the trend to hybrid working and achieving a major reduction in long-distance commuting.

We shall carry out a major localising of public and private services in urban areas and villages. This will help repopulate rural areas and further reduce wasteful commuting. Further measures to make communities sustainable and food resilient will include the following:

  • Ensuring a rapid shift from fossil-fuel vehicles to electric, battery, flywheel, and hydrogen power over the next ten years, withdrawing all fossil-fuel motors by 2032
  • Developing an electric bus and coach network across Britain, connecting most towns and villages on an hourly timetable
  • Integrating different public transport modes (bus/train) and ensuring that all are fully accessible
  • Phasing in free bus travel, starting in inner-city areas
  • Re-opening and electrifying many closed rail-lines to connect districts across regions and introducing a regional Travel Card

We would complete electrification of railways alongside new urban tram networks by 2035 and phase out heavy lorries over 10 tonnes whilst transferring freight to rail.

We would permit only electric vans and lorries after 2030.

We would build new walkways (pavements) and continuous cycle lanes linking most towns and villages across the countryside (up to 10 miles).

We would incentivise electric car pooling and local car clubs and penalise private vehicle ownership through a series of measures including road pricing for private motor transport in cities (£1/mile). We would implement a carbon tax on all air travel and shipping (£100 per tonne).

The target for our GSND in the area of transport is to establish a clean, integrated, accessible public transport system covering the whole of Britain by 2035… for the first time.

Land, Agriculture and Food

Land ownership is currently highly unequal, and many large estates are unavailable for growing organic food, for public recreation, or for re-wilding that benefits the environment, climate, and biodiversity. We would break up estates over 10,000 acres and introduce a Land Value Tax.

Britain is a fertile, temperate country which can feed itself easily. We would achieve a phased reduction of the 50% of food that is currently imported by restoring food self-sufficiency and replacing intensive or industrialised farming with smaller mixed farms.

We would ensure a policy mix of education, incentives, and rationing of high carbon products to accelerate the shift in consumption habits toward a healthier, more affordable, and predominantly vegetarian/vegan diet culture. Our target is 80% plant-based consumption by 2032. In addition, we shall ensure further improvements in animal rights and welfare.

Less developed countries that currently export food to Britain will be able to use their land and water resources to meet the needs of their own populations, and we shall drive global initiatives to ensure that compensation is paid by rich countries to help in the transition to local farming by indigenous people. We shall enact legislation to ensure that commercial fishing uses only sustainable practices that benefit local small-scale fishing.

Housing For All

There are millions of poorly-housed and homeless people in Britain. We have several strategies to deal with this:

  • Protecting public housing from sell-off or privatisation by abolishing ‘Right to buy’ and setting a target to build one million new homes for social rent
  • Enabling local authorities to identify, acquire, and refurbish suitable empty buildings for local housing and implementing a new Vacancy Tax on private properties empty for over six months. This new tax is to be related to the new Land Value Tax
  • Making funds available to local authorities for building new social, affordable, ‘passivhaus’ homes (mainly on brownfield sites) and refurbishing existing ones

We shall build 100,000 compact Eco-flats in the first six months to meet urgent housing needs and create non-profit district co-operatives for Housing and for Energy.

National Social Care Service

We shall ensure major public investment in free or affordable social care, generating many new low-carbon jobs in which care workers are well-trained and well-paid.

The shift from a profit-driven to a needs-driven approach will improve the welfare of care workers, family carers, and those needing care.

Fair Tax Revolution

The necessary changes will require investment of funds, partly from taxation and by other means. Our Green Socialist New Deal will involve:

  • Nationalisation of some banks and the creation of a new People’s Bank
  • Widespread implementation of non-profit community credit schemes
  • Capital controls to protect against harmful, speculative capital movements
  • Introduction of a Robin Hood tax on financial transactions
  • Closure of tax loopholes, such as transferring profits to low tax zones, hiding profits, etc.
  • Increased corporation tax, inheritance tax, and capital gains tax
  • New taxes on high incomes, wealth, land value, and pollution, including carbon
  • Cancellation of the expensive Public Finance Initiative (PFI) debts held mainly by hospitals

Universal Basic Services

There is a widespread perception in the West that public services are somehow predatory, financed as they are by taxes levied on “legitimate” private economic activity. This perception is expensively manufactured and sustained, and there is an implicit suggestion that the public sector is somehow less morally deserving than the private sector. Successive governments have promoted this misrepresentation in order to starve public services, especially the NHS and welfare services, of the funding they require to meet community needs.

In truth, the community ultimately owns public-sector assets – the commons that we inherit from our forbears – and should make the decisions about the level of economic resources invested in universal public services.

We shall ensure that universal services including housing, employment, health and social care, public transport, education and training, energy, and water receive an adequate share of investment from the Treasury.

We shall provide a Universal Basic Income (UBI) for adults over 16, (with a child income managed by a parent), together with an enhanced National Minimum Wage. Taken together, these initiatives will greatly reduce absolute poverty, especially among families with young children.

We shall ensure much stronger measures to limit air and water pollution, conserve biodiversity, and prevent soil degradation. We shall equip the Environment Agency with much greater powers of enforcement.

Republican Democracy

We shall take rapid steps toward a republican model of government, with increased devolution to the regions and local authorities, and proportional representation at national, regional, and local levels in order to revive democratic participation.

Local and regional Citizens Assemblies will be used in developing public policy. We shall transform the House of Lords into a set of elected Scrutiny Committees or a Senate of Regions.

The medium-term policies set out in this Green Socialist New Deal would be a major shift toward a truly democratic, equitable, and fair society based on human and environmental needs. Implementing an ambitious agenda for change such as this will require co-operative action involving all Labour, Socialist, and Green movements. •

Contributors: Danny McNamara, Jay Ginn, Peter Murry, Anne Gray, Les Levidow, Mike Shaughnessy and several others. Edited by Mark Douglas.

This article first published on the London Green Left blog.

Mike Shaughnessy is a Green Party activist from north London. Follow him on Twitter @MikeShaugh.