Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Proposing a Green New Deal for America.

With the New Zealand Green Party slumping in the polls, perhaps its time for the party to discover a politics that isn't beholden to the Labour-led government and to business interests.

James Shaw: Disastrous belief in market solutions to climate change.
ON NOVEMBER 19 150 New Zealand academics issued an open letter to the Labour-led Government protesting  that it was failing to adequately tackle climate change. Taking a swipe at the market-driven policies of the past three decades, the letter commented:

"Infinite economic growth on a planet with finite resources is not viable. And yet successive governments have promoted free-market principles which demand rampant consumerism and endless economic growth, thus allowing greenhouse gas emissions to rise. If we continue on our current path, the future for our species is disastrous.'

The letter highlights the recent 500 page report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It starkly warns that we have little more than twelve years to implement the radical and fundamental policies to arrest the growing negative consequences of climate change.

“There’s a big gap between the severity of the warnings from the world’s most authoritative scientific body on climate change and the actions of our government. They need to be honest with us about the risks we’re facing and act accordingly” said senior lecturer Cordelia Lockett in a press statement, who wrote and coordinated the letter.

But there has been a conspicuous lack of a response from the Labour-led Government. While Climate Change Minister James Shaw could of reasonably been expected to reply to the letter, he hasn't. That lack of a response, that lack of any real interest in engaging in constructive dialogue with the signatories of the letter, suggests that James Shaw represents a government that won't be deterred from its disastrous market-led approach to climate change.

James Shaw, given his pro-market views, is obviously uncomfortable with any demands for radical and fundamental changes that contradict the government's slow incremental 'tweaks' to the economy based on being carbon neutral supposedly by 2030.

While the letter highlights that we must abandon neoliberalism and market-driven policies if we are to effectively tackle climate change, James Shaw,and the government he loyally supports, still believe that an environmentally friendly capitalism can be moulded via taxes, some appropriate market mechanisms and some light regulation. All that is required are some 'tweaks' to the system.

In response to the IPCC report last month Shaw said : "I don't want to be Pollyanna here, but once we pass the Zero Carbon Bill I think there will be a great unleashing of investment and innovation in New Zealand and that'll create new industries, jobs and opportunities."

In Shaw's view, we're not facing environmental disaster but a golden age for local capitalism!

But Shaw has been consistent in his support of so-called 'market solutions' to climate change. As far back as his maiden parliamentary speech he said: “I'm a huge fan of the market. When it comes to setting prices and allocating scarce resources it usually beats the alternatives hands down.”

He would, then, have little enthusiasm for the Green New Deal being proposed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and which is gaining traction within both inside and outside the Democratic Party. On Ocasio-Cortez's website we read:

"Why do we need a sweeping Green New Deal investment program? Why can’t we just rely on regulations and taxes alone, such as a carbon tax or an eventual ban on fossil fuels?

Regulations and taxes can, indeed, change some behaviour. It’s certainly possible to argue that, if we had put in place targeted regulations and progressively increasing carbon and similar taxes several decades ago, the economy could have transformed itself by now. But whether or not that is true, we did not do that, and now time has run out.

Given the magnitude of the current challenge, the tools of regulation and taxation, used in isolation, will not be enough to quickly and smoothly accomplish the transformation that we need to see."

In stark contrast to Shaw's misguided belief in the market providing solutions to climate change, Ocasio Cortez aims to fundamentally transform the American economy. The proposals include converting the nation to 100 per cent renewable energy sources, decarbonising key industries, and investing in new green industries and technology. The foundation for these changes would be a massive increase in state spending accompanied by tax rises on the wealthiest individuals and the largest corporations.

While Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal of the 1930s was an attempt to save capitalism from itself, the Green New Deal recognises that capitalism is destroying our planet. As a committed socialist, Ocasio-Cortez recognises that a keynesian-guided regulated capitalism is not a solution. She recognises that there can be no climate justice without economic justice and no economic justice without climate justice.

As writer and activist Naomi Klein has observed:

“I think when we use the phrase ‘New Deal’ it reminds us there is a historical precedent for responding to collective crisis with transformational change. But it should also be a reminder that that first New Deal didn’t have enough justice embedded in the centre by any means.'

With the New Zealand Green Party's disastrous vision of a 'green capitalism' failing to excite anyone, as the recent TVNZ poll indicates, perhaps its time for the Green's to discover a progressive politics that isn't beholden to business interests and the concerns of the conservative Labour-led government.


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