Climate change is happening much faster than predicted and yet man-made global warming emissions are still rising every year. The IPPC’s latest report says we have just 12 years to turn this around if we want to stand a chance of avoiding the most serious and traumatic effects of climate change. The threat has become an emergency.
We need to become carbon neutral by 2030 which means effectively stopping using all fossil fuels. The implications are massive – calling for a reconstruction of our essential infrastructure covering housing, agriculture, transport and industry and in addition making significant behavioural changes to not waste energy and resources. Current plans and policies to expand airports and runways, to permit fracking for gas, to restrict on-shore wind turbines, that have reduced incentives for solar energy and that fail to insist that new homes be built to carbon-neutral standards will soon be seen as undesirable, if not criminal.
The scale of the effort now required is akin to being on a war footing or creating another President Roosevelt’s “New Deal” – a massive program of projects to address, reform and recover from the Great Depression in the 1930’s. The fact that our current politicians have so far failed to initiate such an urgent and radical transformation to secure our future will increasingly be challenged. People’s impatience with lack of action has recently erupted in movements like Extinction Rebellion and the School Strike for Climate while a growing number of climate emergency emotions are being passed by local councils. These actions will and should multiply.
What is needed has been called “Green New Deal” – first outlined more than 10 years ago. A massive investment to move to a zero-carbon economy rapidly, creating millions of good, well paid “Green Collar” jobs. Such a project can only really succeed if at the same time it offers the prospect of security for all and an opportunity to counteract systemic injustice and inequalities in economic and social systems and among groups and communities too often ignored and excluded. Community-led developments and initiatives will be key to this. Basic needs such as clean water, healthy food, housing, education, transport and healthcare must be made accessible and affordable to all. We will have to move away from a society that puts so much value on individual status, class and consumption to find a more convivial, happier and higher quality of life with more cooperative and community-minded behaviour.
Hence the Green New Deal as well as being vital and urgent is also an exciting challenge to combine social justice with environmental justice to transform society as well as redefining our relationship with the planet.
Hundreds of £millions need to be invested in:
· Building resilience to climate change risks, removing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions
· Building new zero-emission renewable clean power sources and power grids
· Upgrading of building structures to maximise energy efficiency
· Restructuring agriculture along ecological lines to stop pollution and global warming emissions, encourage biodiversity and start capturing carbon into the soil and forests
· Restructuring transport systems to provide zero emission vehicles and provide clean, affordable and accessible public transport
So far politicians have not shown the courage and leadership required to tackle climate change. This now needs to be different and could be different but it will require that public understanding and support for the New Green Deal grows rapidly. It is worth noting that while most of the UK knows climate change is happening, recent survey data shows that only 36% believe that humans are mainly responsible and only 25% are “very” worried about it.
Many of the projects required to improve the environment and provide improved transport, housing, education, healthcare and access to healthy food will need to be developed, defined and led by the communities we serve.
There will be a major expansion in local jobs and in training and education, both higher-skilled and lower-skilled to tackle housing and transport projects. So for example Croydon’s engineering companies should be able to play their part by expanding their recruitment and training for local people.
To move this forward we need to raise awareness of the Green New Deal and put pressure on politicians to act. This needs to happen urgently at the national level, London level and local levels, where the necessity and the benefits of the changes for the residents in Croydon need to be made tangible and clear. Linked to this, I’ll be blogging Part 2 on what a Green New Deal can really look like for our area. In the meantime, let me know your ideas for building it too by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org