Green New Deal: Deal or No Deal?

Friday, 23rd January 2009 at 9:00 UTC Leave a comment

Couldn’t resist that rather terrible invocation of one of TV’s most bizarre characters. Its definitely quite a topical idea, this Green New Deal, and everyone seems to be talking about it. In fact, its quite disconcerting to hear both those in government and in parts of the Climate Change movement talking the same language suddenly. But what are the dangers of this approach, and what should we be cautious of.

I remember asking at a meeting in Leeds about how people saw this deal in terms of workers rights (likely to be trampled if any major investment in infrastructure is made) and in terms of weakening, rather than strengthening, the British and American states, indeed, the entire Nation State project. I’m genuinely worried that once again the state will come out on top, and our communities will be distracted yet again from one another, human cooperation replaced with government benevolence.

In such a situation, the cynical might suggest that companies will simply cash in on government hand-outs. Cynical, but probably correct, given this quote from the Climate Change Action blog:

“The green economy is the mother of all economic opportunities,” says Lois Quam, Head of Clean Technlogy and Renewable Energy Investments at Piper Jaffray. “This transition presents such a broad and diverse set of challenges for business, it’s really remarkable to think about what needs to be done.” (link)

What in some ways worries me most is how the original rhetoric of the Transition Towns movement, of re-localisation, is being washed over with this kind of “tell the council we want action” type of language, which in turn becomes “tell the council to come up with a solution they’d like to impose on us”; not re-localisation, more re-centralisation, as big government naturally steps in, offering the solution desired by the select few individuals who harbour the centralised technology to “solve” the problem.

The problems with re-empowering the state are well rehearsed, but to put it bluntly, we know what states are capable of, we know that they have no feelings or regrets, that they take whatever tools they have, never consider anything too inhumane unless it actually threatens the eventual outcome of accumulating further power. Corporations do well to work with it, for they share this need to accumulate, even if they have a different commodity to find.

My concerns are therefore threefold: the effect this will have on the working public’s ability to determine the terms of its employment, the effect this will have on community’s ability to determine their own collective path, and the potential for those institutions and machinations of capital and power to re-legitimise themselves despite their clear involvement in creating this mess, and their clear lack of interest in sorting it out.

If we are to move beyond a world of consumption, simply creating a new market for consumables, no matter how green, will not work. Nor can the need for new technology to combat carbon emissions be taken as a reason why the government should give money to companies to research and develop products that they will then have a monopoly on.

The EU, as I’ve said before, wants Africa to buy its technology and services for power generation and other carbon-free infrastructure. This is not justice, but instead a return to colonialism. With enforceable international agreements looming, this could be a new form of poll tax for those at the bottom of the global pecking order, which those at the top, holding they keys to a limited range of acceptable technology capable of fulfilling necessary roles in Africa. Surely this isn’t what people in the climate movement really want, is it?


Entry filed under: Activism, Africa, Climate Change, Development, Energy, Environment, Poverty, Sustainability, Technology.

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