Posted by: jmtoriel | January 24, 2009

Green New Deal: Solutions towards a Green Economy

The economy is broken. Milton Friedman was dead wrong.

Although Harper and Flaherty cling onto the notions of monetary control of interest rates, reducing taxes to the wealthy and BIG business along with free trade restrictions and regulations, they have never and will never solve the global problems we currently face.

While many name the mortgage and credit-default-swap crises as current culprits, they are only the most recent indicators of an economy with fatal design flaws. Our economy has long been based on what economist Herman Daly (my favourite economist) calls “uneconomic growth” where increases in the GDP come at an expense in resources and well-being that is worth more than the goods and services provided. When GDP growth exacerbates social and environmental problems—from sweatshop labour to manufacturing toxic chemicals to the sinking of a BC Ferry—every dollar of GDP growth reduces well-being for people and the planet, and we’re all worse off. Yes, even the tax payers that would prefer tax breaks over regulations and lower interest rates would have to agree here.

Our fatally flawed economy under a monetary capitalist framework creates economic injustice, poverty, and environmental crises. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can create a green economy: one that serves people and the planet and offers antidotes to the current breakdown.
Here are 8 green-economy solutions to today’s economic mess.

1. Green Energy—Green Collar Jobs
A crucial starting place to rejuvenate our economy is to focus on energy. It’s time to call in the superheroes of the green energy revolution—energy efficiency in green building, solar, biomass, geothermal, tidal, wave and wind power, and plug-in hybrids, renewable biofuels (from waste stream)—and put their synergies to work with rapid, large-scale deployment. This is a powerful way to jumpstart the economy, spur job creation (with jobs that cannot be outsourced), declare energy independence, and claim victory over the climate crisis.

2. Clean Energy Bonds
How are we going to pay for this green energy revolution? Partially through Clean Energy Bonds. Modeled after victory savings bonds in World War II (now CSBs), Canadians would buy these bonds from the federal government to invest in large-scale deployment of green energy projects, with particular emphasis in low-income communities hardest hit by the broken economy. These would be long-term bonds, paying an annual interest rate, based in part on the energy and energy savings that the bonds generate.

4. Emissions Tax Shifting and Cap-and Trade
Again, we need BOTH. Capping emissions and generating revenue to the federal government by imposing a $50/tonne on carbon and other GHG emissions rising annually to shift behaviours gradually and offer alternatives as they become more available. At the same time, we need a coherent national (and international cap-and-trade system that big industry and large-scale emitters will be penalized for emitting GHGs. Both policies work hand-in-hand to assist emitters invest in cleaner technologies — or be penalized. The BC government has done well to impose a Carbon Tax last year, but failed to be transparent in how they would spend the earned revenues while continuing to subsidize harmful fossil fuels extraction at home. By spending the earned revenue on renewable energy projects and job training in the RE sector, the direct cause and effect would be clear to the consumer and allow more opportunities for investments in the RE sector and clean transportation (high-speed rail, energy efficient buses, HOV and bike lanes, etc)

5. Reduce, Reuse, Rethink
Living lightly on the Earth, saving resources and money, and sharing (jobs, property, ideas, and opportunities) are crucial principles for restructuring our economy. This economic breakdown is, in part, due to living beyond our means—as a province, a nation and as individuals. With the enormous national and consumer debt weighing us down, we won’t be able to spend our way out of this economic problem. Ultimately, we need an economy that’s not dependent on unsustainable growth and mass consumerism. So it’s time to rethink our over-consumptive lifestyles, and turn to the principles of elegant simplicity (E F Schumacher’s “Small is Beautiful” concept), such as planting gardens, conserving energy, and working cooperatively with our neighbours to share resources and build resilient communities. This includes smaller local energy projects made at home for our own use.

6. Go Green and Local
Organic or local? BOTH. When we do buy, it is essential that those purchases benefit the green and local economy—so that every dollar helps solve social and environmental problems, not create them. Our spending choices matter. We can support our local communities by moving dollars away from conventional GMO fossil-fuel intensive agribusiness and big-box stores towards supporting local workers, businesses, and organic farmers.

7. Community Investing
All over the country, community investing banks, credit unions, and loan funds that serve hard-hit communities are strong, while the biggest banks required bailouts. The basic principles of community investing keep such institutions strong: Lenders and borrowers know each other. Lenders invest in the success of their borrowers—with training and technical assistance along with loans. And the people who provide the capital to the lenders expect reasonable, not speculative, returns. If all banks followed these principles, the economy wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in today.

8. Shareholder Activism
When you own shares, you have the right and responsibility to advise management to clean up its act. Had GM listened to shareholders warning that relying on SUVs would be its downfall, it would have invested in greener technologies, and would not have needed a bailout. Had CitiGroup listened to its shareowners, it would have avoided the faulty mortgage practices that brought it to its knees. Engaged shareholders are key to reforming conventional companies for the transition to this new economy – the green economy that we are building together.

It’s time to move from greed to green. Now is the time.

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