Putting people at the heart of the green transition

In the General Election, the political parties are setting out their competing proposals for how they would tackle the climate and environmental crises. In a joint edited collection between IPPR and WWF, released last month, we set out a number of examples of what a just transition and a ‘Green New Deal’ could mean for different sectors of the economy and parts of the country and suggests how it could be delivered in a way that would secure widespread public support.

What is a Green New Deal? It could be lots of things, but at its core it’s an investment and policy package that puts the UK on a rapid path to zero carbon and a reversal of declines in nature, fairly sharing the opportunities and costs the transition will bring while tackling wider economic and social inequalities and promoting long term prosperity and wellbeing.

To have maximum effect and catalyse investment by the private sector, it has to include changes to the economic and financial system so it consistently promotes action that protects and enhances the environment, rather than favouring a system which relies upon its exploitation and degradation.

A Green New Deal needs to help the UK generate good jobs that are built on skills in managing energy, water and resources, maximising the benefits of nature and minimising pollution and waste. This is the green industrial revolution that will cut across all sectors of the economy and determine how companies compete in the world. It will involve digital technology, data, good design and a better understanding of how ecosystems support us and how we can support and protect them.

Markets and regulation all over the world are increasingly demanding higher environmental standards. It’s clear that any route to revitalise the UK’s manufacturing heartlands and create opportunities in rural areas should include greener processes and business models. And that doesn’t just mean improving production systems here. UK businesses are often part of long and integrated supply chains, and jobs based on unsustainable exploitation of nature and resources at home or overseas are not a real investment in the UK’s economic future.

It is important to remember that the investment and policy to deliver on our environmental commitments will no longer simply happen in the background through the decarbonisation of the energy sector, practically invisible to most of the public and consumers, but will instead mean changes that will affect people’s everyday lives. There will be changes to industry, food, land use, transport, housing and planning, right across the policy agenda in a way all voters will see and feel.

While there is a wide spectrum of views about what a Green New Deal should involve, what is crucial is the explicit requirement to tackle environmental crises in a way that increases prosperity and reduces economic and social inequalities. Moreover, it’s essential for any government to manage how those changes affect the people and the communities most impacted.

But we shouldn’t forget that, in aggregate, the benefits to greening our economy far outweigh the costs. We need to make sure all parts of the country and segments of society benefit from lower bills, improvements in health, better quality of life and access to new economic opportunities that will result from the investment and policy package proposed.

We must also remember that this is about more than climate change but our wider environment too. And done right, climate action will help us preserve nature, and restoring nature will help us mitigate and adapt to climate change – but importantly from a Green New Deal perspective discussing them together helps us work out how we deliver on both in a way that is fair and maximises benefits to people too.

You can read the edited collection here and more about the commission’s work here.

About the Author

This post was written by Luke Murphy. Luke Murphy is Head of IPPR’s Environmental Justice Commission.

Luke Murphy

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