Your editorial (9 June) rightly calls for the post-coronavirus economy to be rebuilt in a fairer, labour-intensive and environmentally sustainable way. What wasn’t addressed, however, was the crucial question of how such an enormous transition could be paid for.
In the short term, the government’s sensible response to the crisis has been to turn on the spending taps, maybe to the tune of GBP300bn. Expanding this to tackle the climate emergency is made easier by the government’s ability to borrow money at negative interest rates. Green quantitative easing could also help, while members of the Green New Deal group have also proposed that private savers’ money be used to help fund the green transition by changing the rules on Isas and pensions, so that some of the GBP170bn saved annually in such accounts and pensions might be invested in government-backed green bonds.
In addition, over time there will also be higher tax takes from the industries and workers newly involved in such an enormous programme that will help pay for it. The green new deal can be paid for, but the government must pump-prime the process, and all political parties should support such a move.
Caroline Lucas MP
Prof Richard Murphy
City, University of London
o Larry Elliot’s article about the April drop in GDP, with “two decades of growth … wiped out”, does indeed sound “calamitous” (Calamitous GDP figures show UK economy has fallen off a cliff, 12 June). But what is growth in a modern economy, where GDP is essentially a measure of consumption, and what exactly has been wiped out?
Covid-19 has inflicted the pain of bereavement on thousands of families, but our population is much the same as it was in January. Our infrastructure is intact, energy and water are flowing, our cars and trains can still get us from A to B, and our human resources have not changed. The UK has not physically shrunk by 20% (though that might well happen if we fail to tackle climate change, and the sea moves inland over the coming decades).
As Larry suggests, GDP has mostly fallen because everyone is consuming less. This is not necessarily a bad thing for most of us, though it is terrible for politicians and the owners of capital. The dramatic fall in consumption has already had a positive impact on our planet (and thus our long-term health), and people I meet are talking of real gains in the less materialistic areas of their lives.
Surely it is time to find a new indicator of success or calamity that focuses on human wellbeing and the health of our planet instead of how much we grow through the treadmill of consumption.
We might even find that things are not that calamitous after all, and that what we now have is a new platform for moving to a zero-carbon socio-economy that is low on consumption, high on wellbeing, and able to confront the existential crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.
o The economy won’t be saved by a return to the shops to purchase often unsustainable and largely unneeded goods, or by pouring money into dinosaur airlines. As the former chancellor Ken Clarke sagely observed on Channel 4 news last week, Rishi Sunak has done the easy bit. Unfortunately, this is a talentless government – an array of toadies who have limited life experience and are loth to listen. Boris Johnson has no economic strategy, only a desire to get the end of next week.
There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Plans for a green new deal aren’t new, being already well reasoned and developed. Perhaps their best attribute is the ability to deliver social infrastructure projects – such as energy insulation – at a local level, offering skills training, employing smaller companies, and building on the community engagement that has sustained people largely abandoned by Westminster. It won’t be welcomed by the big companies that traditionally fill Tory party coffers, but it does provide an achievable policy for Labour to wholeheartedly campaign on.
Hastings, East Sussex
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