We need a powerful vision of transformation. We need a Green New Deal.
The Green New Deal is a project with a powerful vision of transformation. Green politics is often cast as uncaring or too focused on the climate at the expense of humanity. To fight this perception we need to offer a hopeful and deliverable vision: this is just what the Green New Deal does. The policies it offers are not only so attractive because of the green society they would deliver, but because they show that green politics can and does work for everyone.
The view of our politics in the right-wing press tends to be quite gloomy. We’ve all seen hacks claim that our party is out to bankrupt the country, that we’re a bunch of middle class hippies ready to plunge everyone else into poverty and unemployment, or that we care more about badgers than people. Ed West wrote in The Spectator that the 2015 Green Party of England and Wales manifesto was “the scariest thing since Victor from The Returned”.
Now there’s no way we should be taking a lead from The Sun or the Mail. I’m not saying that we should hand over the reins to blue-no-matter-who journos. But it is true that the ‘willing to sacrifice standards of living’ story is swallowed by a lot of voters, and if we want their support we have to counter that downbeat narrative.
On the face of it, it’s no easy thing to counter. The climate crisis is gloomy, and it is going to take unprecedented action to beat it. What Green can’t rattle off depressing statistics? We have less than 10 years to save the world. Even if every country followed the Paris agreement the world will still be 3 degrees warmer. We might already have caused irreversible change. And so on.
The risk is that the urgency betrayed by those stats means we end up framing everything in a similarly depressing manner. If we’re not careful, the only justification voters hear for our politics is ‘we’ve only got 10 years to crack down on emissions’. It’s easy to make a link from that to the idea that Greens want everyone to lose all the good things: no more cars, no more holidays, no more red meat, no more jobs, and no more fun.
The antidote is vision. Policies win on clearly articulated, deliverable, and inspiring visions. What Greens need to do is frame our politics not in terms the disaster they avert but the opportunities an ecosocialist future would deliver. We know that would be a good future, free of climate insecurity and social injustice. The key is articulating why it would be so good, and how we’d get there.
The Green New Deal does that in one simple package. Not in the sense that it’s an easy, vote winning slogan – it isn’t, and we risk losing its real power if we use it that way. The Green New Deal shouldn’t be our “Get Brexit Done”, but the policy package it refers to has a similar power.
That power is partially in simplicity: the way the Green New Deal works is not complex. In the same way as Roosevelt’s New Deal, it invests in communities to save them (and, this time round, the planet) from crisis. It makes clear demands: social and climate justice for all, and it gives a clear mechanism by which we can deliver them.
More importantly, the GND is powerful in its vision. The vision it articulates is fundamentally green. A totally rebalanced economy. A society where everybody’s security is guaranteed along with the security of the planet. A world in which genuine justice co-exists with living inside the planetary bounds.
Certainly, and rightly, these things speak to green activists. And what of the voters? By placing humans at the heart of the solutions, it’s a vision which speaks against that gloomy worry of greens abandoning the worst-off. The Green New Deal, after all, comes with the promise that no worker is left behind by the sweeping changes we need.
Whether it is the guarantee of decent, unionised, green jobs or the universal basic income, the core of the Green New Deal serves to protect the workers placed most at risk by the press’s caricatured green policies. In stark contrast to the broken neoliberal rhetoric of cuts and capital, it secures properly funded public services, which work for people not profit, and a reality of sustainable housing for all. Far from a vision of austerity and a return to the dark ages, it proves to voters that a green future is possible without abandoning the worse off.
This is the power of the Green New Deal. It brings that hopeful framing Greens need, hand in hand with a package of realistic policies to get us there. It does not forget the worst off in society, as Greens are often charged with doing, but centres them in the plan for a green recovery. The Green New Deal is a vision of a just and green future, and it’s that vision we need.
To hear more about the Green New Deal, join the Young Greens and former MEP and Green councillor Alex Phillips, for an online talk and Q&A at 8pm on May 21.
This article is part of a series highlighting the forthcoming programme of talks and training hosted by the Young Greens of England and Wales. You can see the full programme here.
PS. Bright Green has big plans for the future, but we need your input. Take 2 minutes to see what we’re planning and tell us your thoughts.
Image credit: Senate Democrats – Creative Commons