History of the Green New Deal

Where the Green New Deal came from

The idea of a Green New Deal first arose at the time of 2007-2008 financial crisis roughly simultaneously in the us and the UK. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote an article in January 2007 that suggested the approach. The same year the UK-based Green New Deal group formed, independently developing and publishing the first full proposal for a Green New Deal in July 2008. The group’s report laid out the architecture of the Green New Deal for the first time: combining reining in the power of big finance and transforming the way that government manages the economy with a plan to transform the economy and society to meet the challenges of climate change. The group also published several subsequent reports developing the idea over the following years. The Green New Deal was then taken up by the Green Party in the UK, by Green parties across Europe and by the United Nations Environment Programme. In 2018, the idea was revived by US representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Sunrise Movement in the US following a meeting between a member of her team and UK Green New Deal group member Ann Pettifor. When AOC published a bill for the Green New Deal with Senator Edward Markey in February 2019 the idea caught on around the world.

The Urbanist podcast talked to Green New Deal Group member Andrew Simms about origins of the Group, their 2008 report, the challenges that inspired it and the principles that underpin it. Andrew explores the way it is taking off now and asks whether we can take advantage of the revival of interest in the Green New Deal from the US to Europe and the UK, in a timeframe and with the urgency that the climate science tells us is necessary, and finds reasons to be hopeful in initiatives underway at the local level around the world.
The Urbanist podcast talk to Green New Deal member Andrew Simms about the history and promise of the Green New Deal

The Guardian podcast talks to Green New Deal member Larry Elliott about how the UK Green New Deal was hatched in a London bar.

How the Green New Deal was born, journalist Hettie O’Brien, interviewed Green New Deal Group member Ann Pettifor on the history and trajectory of the Green New Deal for The New Statesman.

The Green New Deal today

The Green New Deal is fast gaining momentum. So far, the campaign for a Green New Deal in the US has concentrated on the plan to transform the economy. In July 2019, senator Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez teamed up with presidential hopeful Kamala Harris to launch a Climate Equity Bill that would make sure that any policy to meet the climate crisis and its impacts also benefits low-income communities and other marginalised populations. 

Potential presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has announced his plan for a Green New Deal. Drawing on Roosevelt’s war time mobilisation rather than the public works programmes of the new deal. Sanders plan includes the declaration of a climate emergency, a $16 trillion investment plan that would pay for itself in 15 years and measures to make fossil fuel companies pay for the transition. Europe for a Green New Deal have launched their blueprint for a Just Transition, drawing heavily on key elements of Roosevelt’s original new deal. There are now campaigns in the US, Canada, in the UK and across Europe, including Green New Deal UK. Green New Deal Group member Caroline Lucas, working with the Labour MP Clive Lewis has introduced the first attempt to legislate for a Green New Deal in the UK, the Green New Deal Bill, formally known as the Decarbonisation and Economic Strategy Bill. Consensus is building among policy makers and campaigners, in a way that hasn’t been seen in decades, behind a bold transformational plan for our economies and societies.

Where the Green New Deal is going

The Green New Deal directly addresses the driver of the climate, environment and inequality crises: a bloated and out of control finance system, and governments no longer able to control the direction of their own economies. The Green New Deal proposes changes to the way that economies are managed so that people and democracy decide what we can do, not the markets. Those foundations laid, the Green New Deal then sets out a programme for the transformation of almost every aspect of our lives, so that we are able to decarbonise according to the timeframe set out by the science and restore the natural systems we all depend on while also reducing corrosive inequality.

Here, the UK has a responsibility to those communities affected by de-industrialisation, and the people and communities who have been excluded from the economy. We must restructure the economy if we are to achieve the Green New Deal at the scale and speed needed for transformation, but we don’t need to wait. Local authorities, cities and towns can take the lead beginning the process of transformation where they are. We have a limited time to act, a broken economy to fix, a divided country to transform and a historical responsibility to reduce our emissions.

The Green New Deal begins at home, and we must do our part to reduce our share of emissions, but it must also be international in outlook. The UK has a historic responsibility, to the communities and countries around the world affected by colonialism and cultures of exploitation and extractivism.