A "Green New Deal" Gains Traction in the UK Too

CC BY 2.0. Phil Dolby

Climate action is about to get radical.

I often wonder what would happen if the climate crisis we are currently facing had suddenly appeared overnight—rather than playing out as the slow-burn emergency that many of us have been talking about for years.

Would the powers that be have responded with more urgency?

With school strikes and Extinction Rebellion making headlines in Europe, and the fight over a Green New Deal shaping debate in the US, it really does feel like a movement is growing that is finally pushing society to act with the speed and ambition that the science tells us is necessary. The question is, will policy makers listen?

In the UK, the Labour Party appears set to take up the mantle, at least. The Guardian reports that they are today unveiling their own plan for rapid, ambitious climate action which is being billed as not dissimilar to the Green New Deal concepts being bounced about in the United States. Key to the approach, according to shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, appears to be an unapologetically central role for government in the push to decarbonize:

She said a future Labour government would oversee an economic revolution to tackle the climate crisis, using the full power of the state to decarbonise the economy and create hundreds of thousands of green jobs in struggling towns and cities across the UK.
“We believe that together, we can transform the UK through a green jobs revolution, tackling the environmental crisis in a way that brings hope and prosperity back to parts of the UK that have been held back for too long.”

I'm sure there will be those who decry creeping socialism, rail against the inefficiencies of the state, or claim validation for the old canard that environmentalists are nothing but watermelons (green on the outside, red inside). But in order for those critics to command much credibility, they'll need to offer their own vision for how a capitalist, market-based approach can deliver the kind of rapid emissions cuts now necessary for saving millions of lives and staving off ecological and economic ruin.

To be fair, this will be an interesting discussion to have in the UK. Despite my strong, personal and extremely negative views about the UK Conservatives and how they have handled Brexit, the one area where they have had some considerable success is decarbonizing the country at a considerably more rapid pace than many other economies around the world.

Has that decarbonization been fast enough? No. Has it simultaneously tackled social challenges like income inequality or social marginalization? Absolutely not. So I'm hoping that a strong, ambitious and articulate vision from the country's Left can also push free marketeers to get serious about how we rise to the challenge of climate change while also making our society better for all of us.

May the best ideologue win.