Green jobs now!
As the financial and economic crisis deepens, the sharp reminder of other problems, given by the spike in oil prices, has faded as pump prices fall back below £1 a litre.
Governments, in the UK and elsewhere, have clearly shown through their clumsy responses that they fail to understand how to correct the economic downturn in ways that will also end climate damage and prepare for the decline in supplies of oil.
Although the mechanisms of tax, credit, money supply and exchange rates are complex, the job losses and eroded savings distressing, and the sudden demise of household-name businesses worrying, the shape of a solution is simple.
Experts forecast that our Gross National Product will fall about 3% in 2009, which means that 3% plus of the productive capacity of our economy will be unused. 3% of our work force will be unemployed, 3% of machines idle, building sites and shops empty, a waste of resources.
What is needed is to divert that wasted 3% into "investment in the low carbon economy," which is not the dream of a woolly-hatted eco-protester but the sober recommendation of Sir Nicholas Stern in his 2006 Climate Change advice commissioned by HM Treasury. Putting this advice into practice in the face of the financial storms would require political will and bold measures, but not the ones applied in the last few months.
It should be obvious by now that insolvent banks will not readily lend money, and that businesses will not borrow to invest, even at zero interest, if they cannot see a way of making a profit thereby. Equally obvious is that few people will boost the UK economy as a result of a small cut in VAT; prudent folk will spend less and reduce their credit card debts, while foolish folk will spend on electronic consumer goods, boosting the Chinese economy, but not British jobs. Government infrastructure projects will create local jobs, but it is hard to depict accelerated road building as "investing in a low carbon economy !"
Government should instead use our money to employ building workers to improve home insulation and install solar panels, road engineers to construct cycle paths, and car workers to build buses. This, and more investment and jobs along similar lines would restart the economy while reducing dangerous climate change and preparing for the post-oil world to come.
This is what the Green Party believes in -- this is our 'Green New Deal' proposal. This is what Britain badly needs, in 2009...
Green jobs now!