Tinkering at the margins of an economic model driving environmental breakdown is guaranteed to deepen the climate emergency. To thrive, only a systemic response to a systems crisis will do. We need a UK Green New Deal to rapidly and justly decarbonise our society. This is a plan to restructure the economy toward sustainability, better steward and repair natural systems, hardwire democracy and justice into economic and social life, reimagine and expand prosperity, build resilience, and decolonise the global economy and its everyday operations. The goal is simple but transformative: a deep and purposeful reorganisation of our economy so that it is democratic, sustainable, and equal by design. Driven by a step change in public policy and investment, a UK Green New Deal can rescue our collective futures from climate catastrophe and create the conditions for universal human flourishing.
A UK Green New Deal will depend on an unprecedented mobilisation of finance, anchored by an ambitious expansion in public investment, and directed through a green industrial strategy to restructure the economy – both supply and demand – toward a post-carbon future. Given the annual cost of reaching net-zero by 2050 is estimated to be 1-2% of GDP to 20501, it is reasonable to assume achieving comprehensive decarbonisation at an earlier date will require increasing annual investment in decarbonising industries, technologies and infrastructures – perhaps up to a value of 3-5% of GDP per year in the next decade – creating millions of good jobs and building low-carbon wealth.
A UK Green New Deal, however will need to be more than a series of discrete policies to decarbonise. It must be a common project to transform society, extending freedom to all, and supporting new ways of living and working. The purpose is not just to decarbonise today’s economy but to build the democratic economy of tomorrow, one based on new and purposeful goals that centres what Tithi Bhattacharya describes as “life-making over profit-making”.2
Over the summer, Common Wealth is publishing a comprehensive road map for a Green New Deal for the UK. With contributions from leading climate activists, practitioners, policy experts, and academics, it will set out detailed plans for justly and rapidly decarbonising almost two dozen sectors or institutions in six main areas.