Thu, Dec 19, 2019 - Page 9 News List

Europe’s ‘Green Deal’ is a model for the rest of the world

By Jeffrey D. Sachs

Europe has done it. The European Green Deal announced by the European Commission is the first comprehensive plan to achieve sustainable development in any major world region. As such, it becomes a global benchmark — a “how-to” guide for planning the transformation to a prosperous, socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable economy.

To be sure, the tasks confronting the EU are daunting. Even reading the new document is daunting: A seeming welter of plans, consultations, frameworks, laws, budgets and diplomacy, and many interconnected themes, ranging from energy to transport to food to industry.

Critics would scoff at the European bureaucracy. However, this is bureaucracy in the finest Weberian sense: It is rational. The goals of sustainable development are spelled out clearly; targets are based on the time-bound goals; and processes and procedures are established in line with the targets.

The overarching objectives are to reach “climate neutrality” (net zero greenhouse-gas emissions) by 2050; a circular economy that ends the destructive pollution caused by plastics and other petrochemicals, pesticides, and other waste and toxic substances; and a “farm-to-fork” food system that neither kills people with an overly processed diet nor kills the land with unsustainable agricultural practices.

The European Commission understands that this must be a citizen-based approach. Again, the critics would regard the talk of public consultations as naive fluff.

However, tell that to French President Emmanuel Macron, who has faced street riots for more than a year; or Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, whose country suddenly erupted in riots this fall after the introduction of a small increase in metro fares.

Both Macron and Pinera are exemplary environmentalists. Both have committed their countries to climate neutrality by 2050. Both are urgently searching for a path of public consultations, but after the fact.

US neoliberals would scoff, too, arguing that the “market” will sort out climate change.

Yet look at the US today. If neoliberalism does for the planet what it has done for the US infrastructure, we are all in big trouble. Arriving at a US airport means facing elevators, escalators and people movers that do not work, taxis that do not arrive, rail links that do not exist, and highways with broken lanes and overpasses.

The reason for this dysfunction is obvious: corruption. Each US election cycle now costs US$8 billion or more, financed by billionaires, Big Oil, the military-industrial complex, the private healthcare lobby, and vested interests intent on tax breaks and protecting the status quo.

Market-based solutions are a sham when politics is subordinated to lobbying, as it is in the US. The European Green Deal shows government as it should be, not government subordinated to corporate interests.

Europe’s Green Deal is in fact a demonstration of successful European social democracy — in an operational rather than a narrow partisan sense.

A mixed economy, combining markets, government regulation, the public sector and civil society, will pursue a mixed strategy: public goals, public investments in infrastructure, private investments in industrial transformation, public-private research and development missions, and an informed population. It is industrial policy at its most sophisticated. (I recently outlined such a social-democratic Green New Deal strategy for the US.)

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