Policymakers ought not wait for economic theory to catch up with the environmental crisis
The Green New Deal is probably the most fashionable policy in the English-speaking world. In Britain it is advocated by both Tory MPs and Jeremy Corbyn; while a non-partisan Canadian coalition of nearly 70 groups are backing such a scheme. However, it has been made flesh by US Democrats, in particular the political phenomenon in the US House of Representatives, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Ms Ocasio-Cortez has spelled out what a Green New Deal involves in a House resolution: rejecting economic orthodoxy to confront climate change. She ought to be congratulated twice over.
At present the thinking is for governments to tackle global warming by including the social cost of carbon in the prices people pay, either through a carbon tax or a system of tradable carbon-emission permits. Such ideas have a role to play in changing the way societies consume and produce energy, but they are only moving us incrementally – if at all – towards sustainability. Global emissions of carbon dioxide are higher than they have ever been, almost three decades after the first global conference aimed at reducing them. The situation is becoming dangerous for human life. The latest figures show there is little more than a decade to save ourselves and the other creatures with whom we share the planet. To do so we must decouple economic activity from carbon emissions and ecological destruction.