A Green New Deal for the West Midlands?

Localise WM has long supported a Green New Deal approach, in which the ‘triple crunch’ of credit-fuelled financial crisis, accelerating climate change and soaring energy prices are addressed by state and private investment in tackling energy efficiency and renewables on a massive scale. The history of our Green New Deal involvement is below (our co-founder Colin Hines convened the Green New Deal group). A number of our activities fall under this theme:

  • We developed with consultancy Encraft the Birmingham Green New Deal scheme, which is now fully operational and a national Green New Deal exemplar. As a consultancy we have since been involved in various aspects of its delivery with an emphasis on ensuring its local procurement aspects were maintained to maximise local benefit.
  • We have been working on the communities strand of SWM’s – Low Carbon Economy Programme supporting community renewables schemes in the region. (Phil Beardmore, Paul Cobbing, Pat Conaty)
  • We undertook research into Solving fuel poverty: opportunities from Green Deal & Localisation and continue to promote more socially just approaches to Green Deal to national and local government.
  • We co-hosted the Birmingham launch of the national Energy Saving Co-op with the Midlands Co-operative Society in 2011.
  • Various other projects to support community energy efficiency and renewables schemes around the region.

Green New Deal and LWM: the original proposition

The global economy is facing a ‘triple crunch’; a combination of credit-fuelled financial crisis, accelerating climate change and soaring energy prices underpinned by an encroaching peak in oil production. (Recent falls in energy prices reflect the economic downturn and hide the long term trends). The scale of this situation clearly demonstrates the need for fresh and innovative intervention and change.

The Green New Deal, developed in 2008, proposed a range of financial and economic measures to tackle these joint crises. Many of the financial measures would require national or international action and so are beyond the immediate scope for implementation in this region.

What was more immediately possible in the West Midlands was to undertake a massive programme of energy efficiency/renewables infrastructure development to revitalise the economy – also following Stern report recommendations – using public spending to invest in our future as well as to help us out of the recession. As well as public spending this would include investigating new (and old) mechanisms to provide opportunities for secure, stable investment for savings and pensions. We saw the starting point for this energy efficiency and renewables infrastructure as being insulation/ renewables measures for homes and businesses, but that this could also include public transport investment, investment in local food supply chains and a wide number of other elements.

In the West Midlands we were particularly well placed to trial this approach:

  • We had the excellent low carbon economy commitments of the Regional Economic Strategy, which the GND approach would build on and take further; although the economic strategy is no longer, its low carbon commitments have been taken forward by Sustainability West Midlands and its partners.
  • There were and are many local firms, social enterprises and community initiatives already engaged with energy efficiency work which could be brought in to deliver some of this: as the more financial sections of the GND report make clear, the participation of local enterprise and the job creation, ‘local multiplier’ and social glue that it brings to the region is an essential aspect of its potential success.
  • The Green New Deal is not a rigid blueprint with all the answers already available, but it is at least a directional route map for both energy and economic security.

Past activities

We brought together a group of the following organisations in 2009 to work together on green new deal approaches.

Be Birmingham
Birmingham Sustainable Energy Partnership
Castle Vale Community Housing Association
Friends of the Earth West Midlands
Jericho Foundation
Localise West Midlands
Marches Energy Agency
New World Solar
Regen WM
Sustainability West Midlands
Sustainable Housing Action Programme
Whittington & Fisherwick Environment Group

These organisations drafted a West Midlands Green New Deal Prospectus (pdf) at the time and discussions led to a number of the activities that are now groundbreaking green new deal projects including Birmingham Energy Savers.

Around this time we also ran a seminar with Sustainability West Midlands for economic development officers on the Green New Deal approach to tackling worklessness.