14 April 2009
Cllr. Rupert Read is the newly-appointed Public Services Spokesperson for the Green Party, and is prospective Green MEP for Eastern England.
Last year, a worldwide ‘Green New Deal’ (www.greennewdealgroup.org) was proposed by the Green Party Leader Caroline Lucas alongside a number of other leading environmental and economic thinkers. A Green New Deal would follow Roosevelt’s successful precedent in stabilising the economy, generating millions of good jobs, and preventing a full-blown Depression – but it would do so, crucially, by helping rather than hurting our shared ecosystem. And the beauty of it is that this would guarantee savings in the future, to pay off the huge debts that we already have and that a new investment package will inevitably pile on further. For a Green New Deal involves at its core the efficient harnessing of free renewable energy – the gift that really does keep on giving…
Sadly our rulers have decided against instituting a Green New Deal. The ‘stimulus’ package that Britain is putting in place will actually make dangerous climate change worse, because while there was a small amount (less than 7% of the package) to be spent on green technology, this was more than counteracted by the money to be spent on activities which harm the climate, such as building roads. (What a pity Britain isn’t more like South Korea, which is spending 82% of its stimulus package on green technology – which just shows that it can be done, given the political will).
Meanwhile, the G20 have of course decided not to put in place any additional investment at all for jobs and ecology: a vast abdication of responsibility on their part. Reading their final communiqué, one would have no idea that the world faces an unprecedented environmental crisis which threatens to extinguish civilisation within a century or so, if it is not checked. They seem content to try to jump from the frying pan of financial and economic meltdown into the fire of the climate meltdown that carelessly-renewed economic growth would bring about.
But, its defenders might respond the G20 did at least do something on the other component of a ‘Green New Deal’, the component of the original New Deal in fact most single-mindedly pursued by Roosevelt himself – financial re-regulation. How reassured ought we to be by the measures, including a promised clampdown on tax havens, that the G20 proposed under this heading?
Allow me an indirect answer. I have just been appointed the Green Party's national public services spokesperson. In this capacity, I will be stepping up my work, and that of my Party and our MEPs (1) in defence of the NHS as a public service; (2) in favour of renationalisation of the railways; and (3) in support of the Royal Mail and the post office network as national and public services.
Now, the idea that I want to propose today is a radical one, but one that, as soon as one reflects upon it, transforms into plain common-sense: banking too should be considered a public service; the banks therefore must be publicly controlled. The British government and EU and global institutions should act to ensure that banks, including even the truly international banks (such as HSBC) that have not yet collapsed, are publicly controlled (and the former building societies, that were so shamefully privatised, and all of which have now failed, should be remutualised). After all, it is hardly an acceptable argument in favour of private medicine that some particular bits of private medical practice have (allegedly) not harmed the public interest (yet). We must control the banks permanently, to prevent them from ever again causing the kind of financial cataclysm that they are currently wreaking. There is also a much stronger role for truly local banks – after all, while RBS is going under, your local Credit Union is doing just fine…
Beyond banking we need to question the nature of the creation of money that is saved, borrowed and invested. Green Party Conference in fact last month passed a radical change to our monetary policy. We now have a policy that states how we would control the overall money supply, via fractional reserves and tight control of derivatives, and how we would maintain and direct the supply of new money. This policy clearly recognises the huge role that private banks have come to play in the creation of debt-based money – and recommends instead that money should increasingly be created by government, in the service of the people.
New money should be injected into the economy through the Bank of England providing the Treasury with the money to spend on much-needed projects. This form of ‘quantitative easing’ means that renewables, energy-reduction and energy-efficiency, public transport and so on can be properly funded directly from the public purse. From the commons’ that is money: a social creation, not a natural entity.
Nationalising finance, and creating money primarily through government action and not through private commercial fiat, is how we can yet implement a Green New Deal in toto, and save not only our economy’s but also our ecosystem’s future…
[For vital help in researching this article, Rupert thanks Molly Scott Cato, Stuart Jeffery and Chris Keene.]
A shorter version of this article has been published in the Morning Star and can be accessed by clicking on this link: