The Green New Deal is an ambitious plan to secure a safe climate and fairer society, by totally transforming our economy. It is not intended to be a single policy, but a bold programme of policies, investment and regulation that recognises the causes of our climate and inequality crises are one and the same. It’s what a coronavirus recovery plan and building back better could look like.

Green New Deal UK is movement-led and based on a set of five principles that would shape this potential programme. Decarbonise the economy. Create millions of new well-paid, secure, unionised jobs across the country. Transform the financial system to serve the needs of people and planet. Protect and restore vital habitats and carbon sinks. Promote climate justice.

The climate of opinion for such fundamental change is fragile. The greener aspects of the government’s “New Deal” announced at the end of June are uncertain and do not go as far as Green New Deal UK are urging. Our local authorities face pressing challenges in dealing with the immediate impact of the coronavirus crisis and in delivering essential services and support to those who need it most. These diverging priorities, between a Green New Deal and government at the centre and locality, are creating a gap in addressing both economic and climate crises at once.

In the wake of the pandemic, many are seeking new opportunities and a greater sense of certainty rather than returning to business-as-usual. The case for a Green New Deal that matches the scale of the challenge we face today is stronger than ever. The climate crisis is upon us and public concern in the UK over climate breakdown is now at an all-time high. Over two-thirds of local councils have already declared a climate emergency. Those council areas leading the country on local climate action – from Bristol to Ceredigion to Glasgow – are demonstrating how much more could be done in building back better when we work together.

Where does this leave you if you live in an area that is not taking bolder, more inclusive action? How do we close the gap between the willingness of local communities to do more and the unwillingness of government to treat the environment and climate crisis as an emergency?


One way is to take the lead in implementing a “People’s Green New Deal” – to move beyond individual lifestyle changes and champion community-led initiatives that are consistent with the principles above but not beholden to a full programme of policies. Such community initiatives have already been implemented in places and evidence over opinion helps to bring about the wider policy changes that campaigners are currently working so hard to see enacted. At the same time, community leadership is integral to every council’s local climate action plan and provides real momentum on the ground towards shared net zero carbon targets.

Firstly, in the area of renewable energy, a People’s Green New Deal would take the next step from individuals switching to a renewable energy supplier to starting or supporting the expansion of local community-led energy schemes. As we heard during our event on community energy (watch “The Power of Communities” on catch-up here) it is very clear that community energy delivers a lot more than kilowatt hours and zero-carbon emissions; it creates stronger, more resilient communities. “Whatever kind of community energy action we take, at the heart of it is community leadership, ownership, accountability and benefit,” according to Emma Bridge who heads up Community Energy England.

Community energy has grown steadily in the UK over the past two decades. There are now around 300 schemes in operation across England and Wales, and over 100 more in Scotland, providing renewable energy to their communities and using the profits generated to support local social programmes. As Agamemnon Otero, named one of the 51 Most Impactful Green Leaders globally, acknowledged during the event, “Community energy can be a powerful medium for delivering large-scale social change.”

Our social and economic recovery happens in the places where we live because of the people who live there. As a call to action, a People’s New Green Deal would highlight the collective actions we should focus on locally that have the highest potential for transformative change. Over a series of posts, I will outline more of these community-led actions with impact. This is a work in progress and a collaborative effort, so please join us in thinking big locally.

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