MPs have launched a new bill hoping to force the government to enact a Green New Deal and transform the UK into a thriving green economy.
A private members’ bill (any bill introduced by an MP who is not a cabinet minister) has been launched by the Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and Labour’s Shadow Treasury Minister Clive Lewis. The Decarbonisation and Economic Strategy Bill would require ministers to introduce a 10-year strategy for public investment, designed to decarbonise the economy and eradicate inequality.
It would require ministers to empower communities and workers to transition from high-carbon to low and zero-carbon industries, introduce stricter environmental regulations and protect and restore natural habitats.
The Green New Deal is a concept that emerged more than a decade ago, but it has been gaining traction in recent months in both the UK and the US, where it has been championed by New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, though her proposal was defeated in the Senate on 26 March. She said: “We talk about cost—we’re going to pay for this whether we pass a Green New Deal or not. Because as towns and cities go underwater, as wildfires ravage our communities, we’re going to pay. And we have to decide whether we’re going to pay to react, or pay to be proactive."
What is the Green New Deal?
The core principles of the Green New Deal revolve around a transformation of the economy on environmental lines, a vision for a low-carbon future where climate change and unemployment can be tackled simultaneously. Investment in renewable energies and energy efficient homes is central to the proposal, creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs and reducing emissions at the same time.
In addition, an overhaul of the tax system would help to incentivise green goods and services and make polluting projects less financially feasible, producing more revenues for investment into green energy and infrastructure.
At Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons today (27 March), Lucas asked Theresa May if she would consider supporting calls for a Green New Deal, saying: “One of the many tragedies associated with this Brexit chaos is the huge distraction it is from other key priorities like the climate catastrophe… The UK is way off track to meet our long-term climate targets and our consumption emissions are down just four per cent.”
In her response, May told Lucas she “should do more to welcome the action that this government has taken on this issue”, adding that “clean growth is one of the challenges that we have set in our modern Industrial Strategy”.
Lucas later tweeted that May would “rather defend the status quo”.
Global emissions are at an all-time high.— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) 27 March 2019
The UK is way off our long-term climate targets.
So today I asked the Prime Minister to back a #GreenNewDeal, transform our economy and deliver green jobs in every constituency.
Apparently she'd rather defend the status quo. #PMQs pic.twitter.com/FRWSMu5ChR
Caroline Lucas says at #PMQs that the UK is off track to meet its long term climate targets. This is correct. The @theCCCuk found last year that the UK was not on track to meet its target reduction in carbon emission levels by 2027 or 2032. https://t.co/1a9Qg7WibD pic.twitter.com/YCZ7wkd6yE— Full Fact (@FullFact) 27 March 2019
Despite the Prime Minister’s response, support for a Green New Deal is gaining traction, with Labour members launching ‘Labour for a Green New Deal’ to try and get the party to officially adopt a Green New Deal as one of its policies.
The Decarbonisation and Economic Strategy Bill was read for the first time in the House of Commons on Tuesday (26 March) and will go for a second reading on Friday 5 April. As a private member’s bill, it is questionable how far it will be able to go, as these bills tend to get much less airtime than government proposals – but as the first time the Green New Deal has been debated in Parliament, it will certainly serve to add weight to the campaign.
Commenting on the launch of the bill, Lucas said: "Our climate and our society are in crisis – but our government is failing to act. It is now clear that we need a bold and radical plan to fight the climate crisis at the scale that scientists say is necessary. To do that we need to transform our economy and society at the speed necessary to prevent climate breakdown. We need to do what is required of us – not simply what is seen as politically possible.
"Young people understand the scale of the economic transformation we need to secure our futures. It's time the government woke up to the climate emergency and the UK's grotesque levels of inequality and enacted a Green New Deal."
Clive Lewis, who jointly submitted the bill, added: “The physics is clear. We must cut carbon emissions by 50 per cent, within a decade, to avoid climate breakdown. As climate strikers warn us, the planet will not wait.
"This bill sets a timetable that makes government, workers and communities the drivers of change, not the inheritors of chaos.”