Road Map to a Green New Deal: From Extraction to Stewardship

An introduction to Common Wealth's UK Green New Deal.
This research is published in collaboration with the following organisations:
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Road Map to a Green New Deal: From Extraction to Stewardship

An introduction to Common Wealth's UK Green New Deal.
Executive Summary

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 2050, 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”.

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.

[.num-list][.num-list-num]1[.num-list-num][.num-list-text]Transforming and democratising finance to deliver a UK Green New Deal.[.num-list-text][.num-list]

At the core of the plan is the largest mobilisation of resources in peace-time history to finance transition. To deliver the volume and quality of investment needed will require reshaping private finance, repurposing central banking, creating a new architecture of international finance that can fund a global just transition, and delivering a transformative expansion in the scale and ambition of public investment to finance a UK Green New Deal.

[.num-list][.num-list-num]2[.num-list-num][.num-list-text]Restructuring the economy and work through a green industrial industrial strategy.[.num-list-text][.num-list]

An ambitious green industrial strategy shaped by workers and communities on the front line of change will be vital to driving a just transition, restructuring the economy to provide good work for all who want it. The road map includes sectoral strategies for transformation and new recommendations to ensure meaningful, well-rewarded work is at the heart of a UK Green New Deal.

[.num-list][.num-list-num]3[.num-list-num][.num-list-text]Building public affluence in place of private wealth.[.num-list-text][.num-list]

A UK Green New Deal will have to transform and move beyond the infrastructures and ways of life of the carbon age in little more than a decade, expanding social goods in place of private consumption. This will require reimagining how we provide and own housing, transport, and care. The road map will set out plans to democratise and decarbonise our energy system, retrofit and expand the UK’s building stock to provide decent, affordable and zero-carbon housing for all, scale a green public transport system, and support new forms of care.

[.num-list][.num-list-num]4[.num-list-num][.num-list-text]A decentralised and democratised state to drive decarbonisation.[.num-list-text][.num-list]

Delivering the UK Green New Deal will require a transformed state, with proposals for radical decentralisation to the nations, regions, cities and towns of the UK to support place-based decarbonisation, and new institutions to coordinate structural transformation.

[.num-list][.num-list-num]5[.num-list-num][.num-list-text]Nurturing a 21st century commons in place of extractivism.[.num-list-text][.num-list]

In place of an economics of extraction, a UK Green New Deal must nurture a dense and generative network of commons that encompases everything from better stewardship of nature to democratising digital technologies to plan and deliver decarbonisation. The road map will examine how to redistribute wealth and time to universalise security, support new ways of living and thriving, and expand leisure.

[.num-list][.num-list-num]6[.num-list-num][.num-list-text]Developing a green and just multilateralism.[.num-list-text][.num-list]

A Green New Deal must deliver climate justice, working to unpick the UK's role in an extractive global economy, supporting reform of the architecture of international financial institutions, and promoting a global just transition through investment and technological transfers.

Our road map for a Green New Deal is based on the following principles:

  • Our goal should be to decarbonise as rapidly and justly as feasibly possible based on a fair net-zero target. All aspects of public policy should be repurposed toward that goal, mobilising to decarbonise our economy substantially before 2050. We have both a responsibility and capacity to act, and rapid transition brings many co-benefits. Rather than pursuing a lowest-cost pathway to decarbonisation, we should seek the highest ambition route. The net-zero target should be based on low residual emissions offset by the restoring and scaling of natural carbon sinks in the UK, not via unproven technologies or offsetting through unfair land use in the Global South.
  • Markets on their own cannot drive a society-wide reorganisation of production and consumption at the pace and scale required – a UK Green New Deal must be a government-led process of economic restructuring. A Green New Deal must be a government-led, society-wide mission to rapidly and justly restructure our economy toward environmental sustainability, decoupling economic activity from non-renewable resource consumption and carbon emissions while expanding the social and economic conditions needed for human flourishing. The means are a transformative step change in the forms and direction of investment, ownership, planning, and control in society, based on a deep institutional turn in the ordering of our economy toward democracy, sustainability and shared forms of sovereignty.
  • A Green New Deal must deliver a just transition. A UK Green New Deal must create good forms of work for all who want it, be shaped by the voices and interests of communities on the frontline of change including social movements, workers and trade unions, and challenge inequalities of class, race, gender and generations at the heart of fossil fuel capitalism. A just transition means investing in communities and regions in the UK and globally where it is most needed to address historic and ongoing inequalities and prepare for the inevitable disruptions ahead.
  • Climate crisis is a crisis of inequality. Both the causes and unequal effects of climate crisis are intimately linked to and driven by inequality. Stark, longstanding differences in consumption between countries and individuals are putting natural systems under intense stress. Yet despite not being responsible, the consequences of breakdown fall predominantly on poorer nations and households. A UK Green New Deal must challenge the inequalities driving climate emergency or risk deepening climate apartheid.
  • A UK Green New Deal must support global climate justice. As a key nodal point in fossil fuel capitalism and a beneficiary of centuries of unequal extraction, the UK has a particular obligation to support a just global transition. Given the nature of climate crisis, effective action necessarily will involve effective international co-ordination. A UK Green New Deal will therefore have to be based on new forms of green internationalism, supporting the pooling of resources and technologies to address climate change equitably.

A UK Green New Deal will ultimately require rewiring an economy based on extraction where nature is commodified and unsustainably consumed, where the commons – natural, social, technological – is enclosed and its wealth privatised; and where value is extracted from labour, both waged and unwaged. Extraction drives the unequal accumulation of wealth and concentrates power.

An alternative must be anchored in models of ownership and control that are sustainable, democratic and purposeful by design to better steward our common resources. This will require a reimagining and expansion of common ownership to ensure we share in the wealth we create in common, new forms of stewardship to re-embed the economy in nature and end the false separation of the economic from the environmental, and a rewiring of control so we all have a stake and a say in decision-making that shapes our workplaces, communities, and society. And it will require a new purpose for the economy, focused on more social, creative and sustainable ways of creating, measuring and distributing value in the economy. A UK Green New Deal can build that future for all of us.

Over the coming weeks, Common Wealth will publish a set of detailed policy interventions that taken together can deliver on these principles and scale a democratic and sustainable economic architecture if powered by social movement, communities and politics organising for climate justice. A UK Green New Deal must be central to that transformation.

Full Text
Road Map to a Green New Deal: From Extraction to Stewardship