Is it Time for “A Green New Deal”?

by Jana Gastellum, Associate Director, Energy Future Coalition

Among churning financial markets, two international organizations, the United Nations and the International Energy Agency, recently called for green growth as a solution to the current economic crisis.

Last week, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon promoted the UN Environment Programme’s call for a Green New Deal. Coupling solutions to poverty, energy security, and the environment, Secretary Ban says,

A solution to poverty is also a solution for climate change: green growth. For the world’s poor, it is a key to development. For the rich, it is the way of the future… At a time when the global economy is sputtering, we need growth. At a time when unemployment in many nations is rising, we need new jobs. At a time when poverty threatens to overtake hundreds of millions of people, especially in the least developed parts of the world, we need the promise of prosperity. This possibility is at our fingertips.

We have experienced great economic transformations throughout history: the industrial revolution, the technology revolution, and the era of globalization. We are now on the threshold of another — the age of green economics.

Similarly, Newsweek International published a cover story, “A Green New Deal,” that reports on the normally conservative International Energy Agency calling for “radical changes in the way the world drives its cars, its factories and, indeed, the global economy.” But is this prudent given the possibility of a global recession? Many world leaders think so:

[T]here are…powerful voices being raised amid the din of despair, saying that now is precisely the time to seize the initiative and launch that “global revolution” the IEA is calling for. And not just because it will stave off disasters two or three decades away, but because it can provide the impetus to pull the global economy out of the slump it’s in now and put it on a more solid foundation than it’s had in at least a generation.

We see examples of where green growth policies have already worked and will continue to yield benefits. In Germany the renewables sector has already created 250,000 jobs. By 2020, it is expected to outpace the auto industry–the largest manufacturing business–in job creation. France’s efficiency laws, already on the books, are expected to create 200,000 jobs over the next dozen years. In the UK, wind turbine development alone is expected to add 160,000 jobs by 2020. And Japan’s ministry for trade, economy and industry is planning for a new era of industrial infrastructure development fueled by energy efficiency and innovative technologies.
The Newsweek article ends with these words:

“The nation is asking for action, and action now,” said Franklin Roosevelt when he took office in 1933 and launched the New Deal. Today the global economy–the planet itself–is asking for the same thing.

The U.S. is about to transition to a new President. We should seize the opportunity to invest in a new era of clean technology development. The future demands no less.