A popular demand on this Friday’s school strike for the climate is likely to be for a Green New Deal (GND).
Many climate activists have backed the call for a programme of radical demands to take on climate change.
It’s inspired by action in the United States—where a GND bill has been proposed by Democratic Party politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
It calls for a decarbonised economy by 2030, providing funding to combat extreme weather and resources to help climate refugees.
When put to the US Senate in March, the GND failed to gather a single vote—but it has helped put radical action on climate change on to the mainstream political agenda.
In Britain the idea has been taken up by Labour for a Green New Deal, which seeks to pressure the party leadership into adopting it as policy. It won left Labour group Momentum’s support to make it part of the next manifesto.
Organisers of the school climate strikes championed the GND as “not a wish list but a solution” by their third strike in April.
The GND is a fairly broad term for policies to decarbonise the economy and its details are vaguer in Britain.
And it means different things to different people.
For instance, the Sunrise Movement wants a radical break from a pro-business economy. Its plan would “reduce emissions through economic transformation”.
Public investment would “create millions of good, high wage jobs” and “guarantee wage and benefit parity for workers in the transition”.
The GND consciously takes its name from the US “New Deal” of the 1930s. To pull the economy out of depression bosses were willing to accept more state intervention, massive transport and infrastructure projects.
Today some capitalists might accept a watered-down version of the GND, with investment in renewable energy or infrastructure. They are not going to allow a total economic overhaul that does away with fossil fuels within ten years or less.
Winning these sorts of changes requires taking on the banks and corporations that make the major economic decisions under capitalism.
It will require a movement that takes on climate justice, but also has control of the social, political and economic mechanisms to make this a reality.
Some Labour figures who have come out for a GND want the climate movement to focus its energies inside their party.
One of Labour for a Green New Deal’s founders, Clare Hymer, writes that the Labour Party is the “only viable political vehicle for something like a GND” in Britain.
So this means “building support for bolder climate justice policy within Labour branches and unions across the country”.
Labour supporting a GND would be a good thing. But the strength of the movement lies in taking action—whether it’s the school climate strikes or Extinction Rebellion—not battling inside Labour.
And fighting for the measures in each GND—whether in Britain or the US—will strengthen the struggle for the environment. It will also make people more confident in fighting for better houses, wages rises, against racism and so on.
Our best shot is a climate movement that focuses its energy outside parliament and pushes to break the stranglehold of profit that’s choking our planet.