The dominant global economic system has brought us to the edge of the precipice. Despite decades of empty promises from those in power to end extreme poverty, tackle global hunger, and provide a decent life for all, the policies of extraction and exploitation of people and resources – by the world’s wealthiest and most powerful – continue to fuel the global economy and destroy the foundations of life on our planet.
We are now in the grip of increasing climate and ecological breakdown, with frequent and intense climate impacts devastating the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. It is clear that tweaks to the existing global approach are not working.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the interlocked nature of the crises we face into sharp focus – supercharging the economic, racial and gender inequalities that exist in both the UK and globally. The impact has been catastrophic, with lives lost, and people plunged deeper into poverty struggling to survive.
Over centuries, it has been hard-baked into our economic and political systems that no one and nothing has value unless they or it can be exploited for profit. This mindset is at the heart of the multiple crises that we are facing. The lives of those in the Global South – people who are black, brown, indigenous, female, poor – have been sacrificed in the pursuit of profit. Centuries of Global South exploitation by wealthy countries and greedy corporations has kept the Global North holding the power and the purse strings.
We need a new way forward.
It is against this backdrop that the various iterations of Green New Deals have re-emerged as inspiring roadmaps for intersectional climate action in both the Global North and South.
War on Want’s vision for a Global Green New Deal is rooted in the breadth and vision of the many initiatives already emerging.
The challenge we face is to rapidly build an economy that works for people and the planet, moving away from systems of limitless extraction and exploitation, towards those of care and repair.
We need a Global Green New Deal that combines science and justice, in an ambitious transition away from the current status quo towards a bold ‘fair shares’ approach. Rich countries must deliver real zero emissions cuts, support global climate-adaptation measures through the transfer of finance and technology, and provide countries least responsible for climate impacts with compensation for loss and damage. Energy and resource use must be scaled back by those who consume too much – and shared with those currently prevented from consuming at all.
In order for this plan to work, we need measures that fundamentally change the global economy – and deliver the following transformations as a starting point:
A just energy transition
Global temperature rises must be kept below 1.5 degrees Celsius to avoid catastrophic global heating. To achieve this, rich countries must rapidly reach net zero emissions by 2030. This means swiftly transiting to non-polluting economies, powered entirely by renewable energy. But this energy transition in rich countries cannot be based on replicating the logic of fossil fuel extraction, which would generate a new wave of destructive material extraction and exploitation of workers in the name of the green recovery.
A fair global economy
Unfair trade rules, unjust tax rules and the unfettered power of corporations have deprived many countries from implementing policies demanded by their citizens. By reforming global taxation, we can begin to advance a redistribution of wealth, fund much needed social programmes to support communities at risk from climate change; and mitigate climate impacts. Measures must make polluters, big corporations and the wealthiest pay their fair share; and must include a reform of our unjust global trading system.
Everyone has a right to nourishing food and clean water, but the existing global food system does not work for people or the planet. Industrial agriculture displaces people from their lands, feeds corporate profits instead of people, increases poverty and human rights violations, and is linked to a series of climate-damaging environmental impacts: deforestation, land degradation, and water loss. Instead, we must support small scale farmers and agricultural workers, in the creation of a just food system based on food sovereignty, to end hunger and minimise climate impacts.
Decent and valued work
We live in a world of intense economic inequality. Insecure, low-paid, and precarious work is deliberately created to maximise business and shareholder profits. The growth of the digital and gig economies is replicating this form of labour exploitation. Automation risks even more workers being forced into insecure, precarious work. Care work is too often invisible, unpaid and undervalued, with the majority falling to women, precarious workers and migrants.
We must rebuild our economy with decent work and workers’ rights for all at its core: living wages, safe working conditions, access to social security, and trade union rights.
Universal public services
Everyone has the right to a dignified life, yet many millions are denied clean water, nutritious food, affordable housing, sanitation, access to energy or adequate healthcare. Over half of the world is still locked into poverty. This is likely to rise because of the effects of the pandemic.
Universal basic services including healthcare, education, housing, pensions, and support systems are crucial to protect people from the effects of climate injustice, prevent the spiral into poverty, and advance human rights, equality and justice.
As we approach a pivotal year in which the UK will host the next UN climate conference, COP26, we are fast running out of time for inspiring solutions. A Global Green New Deal that addresses the multiple crises in a comprehensive and just way shouldn’t be an aspiration. It must be at the top of the task list of every intergovernmental meeting from here on out.