Climate change is now a global emergency and we are running out of time in the battle to protect the earth’s ability to support life. Meanwhile the continued effects of austerity mean that millions are crying out for a better economic future with worthwhile jobs that give workers security.
No wonder Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ appeal for a Green New Deal to create jobs and cut carbon dioxide emissions has proved so popular in the United States. With the possibility of a general election looming in the UK, some in the Labour Party are calling for a Green New Deal.
For a Green New Deal to work in the UK we would need
- Meaningful and realistic targets for emissions reduction and jobs created for the UK as a whole, and for regional and local government. Elected representatives need to work with experts to set these targets. Experts from the fields of climate science and the practicalities of implementing carbon reduction programmes will be needed.
- A Green New Deal should be mainly funded through general taxation. Levies on fuel bills are regressive taxation because they hit the poor hardest.
- Energy efficiency comes first. The efficient use of energy is the most sustainable, and often the most cost-effective, way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. This means that the priority for investment needs to be in energy saving measures such as more efficient heating systems and appliances, insulation, heating and appliance controls, energy storage, in both homes and businesses, and in the grid.
- Investment in renewable energy should be more strategic than was the case under previous schemes such as the Renewable Heat Incentive the Feed-in Tariff, which were first-come first-served. In each locality, action plans should be drawn up targeting areas of high demand for heat and power and where the availability of renewable energy is most abundant.
- Reducing the need to travel is the most sustainable way of reducing carbon emissions from transport. Fuel-switching from fossil fuels to electric vehicles is to be welcomed. Investment in the electric vehicle charging infrastructure to enable vehicles to be powered from renewable sources is essential.
Small businesses and community organisations are more trusted than energy companies. The current and repeated failing of the Energy Company Obligation, shows that utility companies are not the right people to deliver a Green New Deal in the UK. There are now many successful and sustainable models of energy cooperative in the UK. Replicating these successes would avoid reinventing the wheel and keep the cowboys out of the Green New Deal.
You don’t need to wait for a government-led Green New Deal to take action in your home, business or community. Please contact me to see how I could help. I’m also available for speaking engagements.
Green New Deal – what went wrong last time?
Excitement is building about the prospect of a Green New Deal in the USA and the UK to protect the climate and create jobs. It’s not the first time we have tried to implement a Green New Deal in the UK, and last time round the successes were outweighed by the failures. Birmingham was at the centre of the Green New Deal last time round, with the Birmingham Energy Savers scheme, that ran in various phases from 2010 to 2015. What went wrong last time and what can we learn for the future?
Birmingham Energy Savers was most successful in its first pilot stage. The use of local installers, the setting of realistic and achievable targets, and offering a holistic package of energy saving and renewable energy improvements along with personalised energy advice, led to happy householders and demonstrable fuel bill and carbon dioxide savings.
Unfortunately on later phases of Birmingham Energy Savers, this localised approach lost out when a large national company, the now-defunct Carillion, was appointed. Carillion were commissioned by Birmingham City Council and two mistakes were allowed, in my opinion.
Targets were set which were too ambitious and unrealistic.
The expertise and experience of the local supply chain was not properly used. While creating new jobs was a laudable aim of Carillion, inexperienced new starters did not have the know-how to persuade householders and businesses to adopt the energy saving measures on offer. Contractors were brought in from outside Birmingham who didn’t understand local conditions and supply chains.
Birmingham Energy Savers was abandoned quietly in 2015 along with Green Deal schemes throughout the country. Meanwhile, those with a more localised approach, such as the Carbon Coop in Manchester and Community Energy Birmingham, have succeeded in delivering energy saving and renewable energy projects at a local level, with little support from any tier of government.
It is localised models of delivery such as these that give us a glimpse of how the Green New Deal could be a success next time round, if central and local government can get away from the approach that has dominated public procurement for decades, which say that big is beautiful and that the private sector is more efficient.
You don’t need to wait for a government-led Green New Deal to take action in your home, business or community.
Phil Beardmore is an LWM Board Member, he is a Sustainability Consultant, Green Leader and Social Entrepreneur – (https://www.linkedin.com/in/phil-beardmore-a1428819)