• Climate Strike Leicester

Introducing the Green New Deal

The following is the speech delivered by Imran Mulla at the September General Strike.

We hear a lot about the horrific scale of damage that the climate crisis is causing globally, and that we only have a decade before climate change becomes irreversible. It’s all true, and it’s all pretty bleak – and yet we are now at an unprecedented stage in our struggle. Gone are the days where we strikers made vague calls for systemic change; we now have concrete policy proposals, plans drawn up by the world’s best scientists and economists. Youth Strike 4 Climate nationally has pledged support the Green New Deal, an ambitious but achievable ten year plan that actually matches the scale of our crisis. That’s what we’re demanding, and I’m going to talk a little bit about what it actually means.

The Green New Deal aims to restructure our economy towards rapid decarbonisation and environmental sustainability, whilst improving everyday life for people. It means building a new wave of zero-carbon homes, widespread electrification and the transformation of gas grids. It means ambitious electric vehicle transformation and the scaling up of public transport - and it means democratising and decentralising ownership of the energy system. It will give people better-paid jobs, lower energy bills and more control over our lives. Most importantly, the Green New Deal aims to deliver a 100% renewable energy system by 2030. To achieve this, we have to spend around 5% of our annual GDP. That’s easily affordable - the money isn’t a problem. The challenge is in ensuring that the costs are distributed fairly, in ways that protect low-income households. We have too often been sold a narrative of the environment vs the economy, but the Green New Deal is designed to ensure an equitable transition which centres workers and guarantees better paying jobs resulting from the divestment from fossil fuels. It’s about recognising that the different economic problems we face aren’t isolated and separate to the climate crisis, which means we need a full scale transformation.

Internationalism has to be at the heart of this movement, and that means that Britain, the country where the Industrial Revolution and the fossil fuel capitalism that has ravaged our planet began, has a historical responsibility to lead the way internationally. We have to abandon the old colonial hierarchies and centre the struggles of those in the Global South who currently face the worst consequences of global heating despite being least responsible for it. The Green New Deal must ensure that the costs of climate transition don’t fall on countries in the Global South. We cannot force the decarbonisation of poorer countries to happen in a way that denies them the rising living standards that we enjoy. The technologies developed here have to be, in the words of the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, “made available free or cheap to the Global South. This may go some way in addressing if not redressing historical injustices.”

Now you may be thinking this all sounds radical and ambitious but actually we’re just a few steps away from getting a Green New Deal. In the USA, it’s talked about everywhere. It’s been adopted by several of the Democratic candidates. Bernie Sanders recently unveiled his sixteen trillion dollar climate plan, the most expensive and aggressive the world’s ever seen.

And what about the UK? Where do we stand? People often ask about what we as individuals can do to fight the climate crisis. The simplest, easiest thing to do is vote if you can, and encourage your parents to vote if you can’t – vote to save the planet. We have a general election approaching and the stakes are incredibly high. Brexit is just a sideshow. There can be no Brexit on a dead planet – and, as it is useful to remind some Remainers, there can be no EU on a dead planet either. This is our chance to elect people into Downing Street who are actually willing to take the action necessary to secure a liveable future. Now, as an organisation we don’t endorse any particular party and we’ll work with whoever’s in government to a get a Green New Deal, but it’s important that we all know what each party offers at this stage. We invited Leicestershire’s Conservative MPs to come and speak at our strike on the 20th September to address our concerns. No one turned up. Currently the Tories have no substantial plan to tackle this emergency; the 2050 target is disastrous. The Liberal Democrats want a net-zero carbon status by 2045, they want to end fracking and they want a moratorium on airport expansion. None of it is enough.

The Labour party, however, is offering what they call a Green Industrial Revolution, which is inspired by the Green New Deal and includes plans to install 1.75 million homes with solar panels and introduce a Clean Air Act. Jonathan Ashworth MP addressed our strike and promised a Green New Deal for the NHS, and at the national party conference, the Labour Green New Deal, which topped the conference agenda and which vitally includes a 2030 target, was voted on and passed. We now have an opposition party in this country which has the Green New Deal as an official policy and that is a gigantic victory for our movement. In the UK we are on the precipice of huge political change. Our movement has achieved an incredible amount, and we should be excited about the possibility of actually being able to deal with the climate emergency – now bring on the election.