Green New What?
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;
Story

Green New What?

Issues/Environment , Stories/654 , Locations/SA/Adelaide
Adelaide SA
28th Feb 2020
Green New What?
A Green New Deal will address the economic realities of the transition to renewable energies.

Politicians and climate activists have been talking for years about moving away from fossil fuels – but towards what future? 

The term ‘Green New Deal’ splashed across news headlines in early February when Adam Bandt assumed his new position as leader of the Greens. “A Green New Deal is a government-led plan of investment and action to build a clean economy and a caring society,” declared Bandt after accepting his new role. His voice seems a lonely one, especially now that opposition leader Anthony Albanese has announced Labor’s support for the Adani mine. 

‘A clean economy’ and ‘a caring society’ certainly sounds appealing, but what does the deal actually mean? 

The Greens have joined a long line of political actors who have decided to adopt a ‘Green New Deal’. U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez coined the term when she and Senator Ed Markey released a manifesto in February 2019 proposing a Green New Deal. Its focus is economic: job security, zero-emission energy, upgraded infrastructure, new transport systems. The idea, as AOC explains in an accompanying promotional video, is to make sure that “no one is left behind.” 

The 2019 Federal election showed that there were a great many Australians who were indeed worried about being left behind in the transition to a sustainable future. Bob Brown and his Stop Adani convoy revealed the grievances of Queenslanders in traditional mining towns whose livelihoods depended on fossil fuels. They were told to move away from coal, but who would guarantee them employment the day they left the industry? Much of the climate debate in Australia has been argued through a moral framework, emphasising the imperative to end our reliance on coal. A Green New Deal addresses the economic realities of the transition. 

A Green New Deal is achievable. Other countries are already proving that a full transition to a clean economy is possible and effective. Germany has effectively shut down its black coal industry and is beginning to wind down brown coal production. The German government has boosted the affected regions with tens of millions of dollars to ensure that mining workers have a job on the other side of the closures. The UK is undertaking what it calls a ‘Green Industrial Revolution’- its own version of the Green New Deal -  and renewable energy now provides more energy to households than fossil fuels. Wind farms have sprung up all over the country and so have the jobs: 70 000 new jobs in wind farms are promised over the next decade. 

In Australia, there is concern that the cost of pursuing such a course could devastate the economy in the process. However, research from the economic think-tank, The Australia Institute, shows that the GDP would either be not at all or minimally affected if Australia were to introduce higher targets, and the same can be said for the everyday cost of energy. 

Australia’s own unique Green New Deal needs to involve everyone. No one can be left out in the cold if we truly want to create a “caring society”. Unlike the UK, Germany or AOC’s manifesto, Australia still lacks a clear path forward. And we can’t simply copy-and-paste models from overseas. To ensure we’re moving forward together, there needs to be coordination across a wide range of groups: first nations people, farmers, economists, regional people, bushfire survivors, miners, and manufacturers. This action needs to be taken together rather than continuing with the status quo of denialism or preaching down from the pulpit.  

Happily, there is already progress in Australia at the state level. As of October 2019, the ACT now runs on 100% renewable energy. The territory uses the energy generated from wind farms located in NSW which were facilitated by the ACT government. The Australia Institute attributes the success to, “ a government […] willing to exercise leadership, formulate smart policy and communicate it effectively to its constituents.”

It is a massive feat to transition an entire country’s economy to one purely reliant on green energy and with zero emissions. But it is feasible. Figuring out the mechanics of a Green New Deal as best suited for the Australian context is a mammoth task that won’t happen overnight. And without a government spearheading progress and taking up the reins, it may not become a reality in time. However, progress is happening regardless. As a wealthy, developed nation, Australia could easily become a role-model to the rest of the world if it is ready to take on a green future. In the meantime – watch this space. 

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