Wed, Apr 17, 2019 - Page 9 News List

Green New Deals must be national and international

By Kevin Gallagher and Richard Kozul-Wright

The “Green New Deal” proposed by progressives in the US cannot be achieved in isolation. To tackle climate change and inequality together, all countries will need to agree to new rules for international cooperation.

The start of such a rethinking began a decade ago.

In April 2009, the G20 met in London and promised to deliver a coordinated response to the global financial crisis, followed by a future of more robust growth.

Then, in December of that year, world leaders meeting in Copenhagen under the auspices of the UN promised big cuts in carbon dioxide emissions to limit global warming to 2?C above pre-industrial levels.

The first conference ended with then-British prime minister Gordon Brown announcing a “new world order” founded on a “new progressive era of international cooperation” — the second ended in disarray.

However, looking back, the false dawn of that “new progressive era” has proven to be the bigger obstacle to a secure and stable future.

For a decade, post-crisis recovery has oscillated between anemic growth spurts and recurrent bouts of financial instability, owing partly to advanced economies’ discordant mix of aggressively loose monetary policies and dogged fiscal austerity.

This has all been supported by a massive build-up of debt, which has increased by more than US$70 trillion worldwide since the crisis.

However, the recovery’s sluggishness also owes something to the intertwining of corporate and political power under financialized capitalism.

As economic power has become increasingly concentrated, inequality — both within and among countries — has reached grotesque heights. With financial speculation now commonplace, so are fraud and instability.

Meanwhile, investment in public goods — globally and nationally — has stagnated, and growth has become dependent on resource extraction and energy consumption, both of which are proceeding at such a pace as to threaten human civilization itself.

For all the ambitious talk in London a decade ago, little has changed.

Debates about improving global governance still revolve around ideas such as “corporate social responsibility,” “public-private partnerships” and “free-trade agreements,” none of which will bring about a fairer and more stable economic order.

Complicating matters further, global environmental conditions have become increasingly fragile since 2009.

Even before US President Donald Trump’s truculent decision to abandon the 2015 Paris Agreement, there was no clear path to keeping global temperatures below a level that scientists deem safe, let alone to preventing a more catastrophic breakdown.

Against this dismal backdrop, bold proposals for a Green New Deal have been gaining political traction, notably in the US, where the idea is to transform the economy through a harmonious marriage of economic justice, social solidarity and environmental rehabilitation.

The Green New Deal has already triggered a rich debate on policy options and provoked a predictable response from vested interests and their political retainers.

However, the marriage that Green New Dealers envision cannot be left to the benefaction of a global hegemon.

Capital is mobile and carbon-heavy growth is no longer the preserve of the advanced economies. For the deal to work, it must also be globalized through international cooperation.

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