A Green New Deal: can environmentalism save the economy?

Sunday 1 November, 12.30pm until 1.30pm, Lecture Theatre 1 Lunchtime Debates

Humanity seems beset on three fronts: rising temperatures, a deepening energy crisis and the global financial downturn. But perhaps this triple whammy can be turned to our advantage. Some think tackling climate change and thinking afresh about energy could also be the key to working our way out of the recession. Advocates of green energy see investment in wind farms and other renewables as the way forward. Other proposals to create ‘green jobs’ include recruiting an army of energy efficiency advisers to go door to door offering tips on how to keep our bills down. Meanwhile, Trade Minister Peter Mandelson has called for ‘less financial engineering and more real engineering’ and sees developing ‘green technologies’– especially in the car industry – as a possible solution to Britain’s economic woes. In the US, President Barack Obama is bidding to create a ‘Green New Deal’. Through state support for investment in green technology, Obama thinks he can push America into an ecologically friendly future and also dig its struggling economy out of a recession. He declares, ‘The nation that leads in the creation of a clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy’. Germany is another nation bidding to do just that, and already has the largest wind electricity generating capacity in the world, having been promoting green technology for many years. Most dramatically, the Chinese are starting to invest in the production of green energy on a scale that might dwarf anything the West can do.

Can the Green New Deal stave off a global depression? Will there be serious investment in new technology, or will we end up with no more than make-work schemes? Can the state really save us from a global downturn and a much-threatened ecological crisis? Can the ‘low-impact and low-carbon’ vision that informs much green technological investment really deliver the change we need? As many environmentalists see economic growth itself as the problem, can a new environmentally friendly capitalism really be mean, lean and green?

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Jenny Bird
research fellow, Institute for Public Policy Research; author of IPPR report, Green jobs: Prospects for creating jobs from offshore wind in the UK

Alexander Horn
economics editor, NovoArgumente; consultant (logistics, production and organisation), German automotive industry

Sam Robinson
social responsibility manager, eaga (the UK's leading provider of residential energy efficiency solutions)

Dr Robert Clowes
chair, Mind & Cognition Group, Nova Institute of Philosophy, Lisbon University; chair, Lisbon Salon

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