Andrea Grainger is an environmental campaigner and SERA member, guest writing for the SERA blog on a Green Jobs Guarantee and community development.
The Labour party is promising an ambitious green industrial strategy to tackle the problems of climate change and ecological devastation. The party's manifesto in 2017 promised £50 billion of new annual investment in Britain's infrastructure; building renewable energy systems, insulating houses, constructing charging equipment for electric cars, developing flood defences, and much more. This investment will create jobs for hundreds of thousands of people, and help us protect our planet for future generations. Labour has also promised to establish a national education service to provide lifelong training and education opportunities for British citizens, to double the size of the cooperative sector, to nationalise the railways, water companies and significant parts of the energy sector, and to establish a national investment bank to provide loans to companies which prioritise environmental and social goals over their own profits.
These steps represent a significant departure from the Conservative party but are not enough on their own to to prevent climate catastrophe. Preventing significant damage to our planet requires humanity to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees above the pre-industrial norm. To do this, humanity must reduce it’s net carbon emissions down to zero by 2045. This will require a much more rapid transition than Labour is currently ready for, and at the same time developing nations will need to be supported with substantial foreign aid, to help them meet the same deadline.
Physically the transition is very possible, but managing it while protecting the jobs and incomes of the British people is much harder and requires many new policy tools. Two keys ideas are a Green Job Guarantee and Community Development.
The Job Guarantee is a scheme developed by Professors Bill Mitchell, Warren Mosler, Stephanie Kelton and others, endorsed by Bernie Sanders, and trialled in India and South Africa. The idea of the scheme is to guarantee a basic job to all unemployed people in the country. These jobs would pay the living wage, with good working conditions, flexible hours, and require little training to get started. An abundance of work needs to be done in conservation that could fit this bill including jobs to tackle soil erosion, flood control, environmental surveys, species monitoring, park maintenance and renewal, removal of invasive species, community and rooftop gardens, tree planting, fire and other disaster prevention measures, weatherization of homes, and composting.
These jobs would be funded by national government, and organised by local government and environmental NGO’s. As well as mobilising tens of thousands of people to strengthen their local environment, they would also keep unemployed people out of poverty, maintain aggregate demand in Britain so we are appealing to private investors, help the unemployed to retain their work ethic, skills and mental wellbeing, and provide opportunities for on the job training so people can advance quickly into more skilled conservation work.
This scheme could start as a green job guarantee, and expand out into a broader program, with local governments empowered to provide a job for anyone who they think could provide a good service for the local community, like public musicians, artists, carers and community developers.
Community development in particular is an area that needs more investment in Britain, both as a low-carbon way to improve society, and an investment with substantial positive feedback loops. Though Britain has many world leading NGO’s, we are suffering from a distinct lack of community engagement, leading to an epidemic of loneliness, mental health problems and social discohesion. The basic foundation on which community engagement is built is micro projects bringing together groups of friends and strangers to share and cooperate. Projects like cooking and eating together, crafting household objects, teaching skills, gardening and growing orchards, pooling childcare responsibilities and many more. Social enterprises like the Transition Towns Network have begun the work to develop these projects around the country. These microprojects often proliferate themselves; each project improves the lives of participants generating enthusiasm for more projects.
The Participatory City Foundation has taken this a step further, piloting a scheme in Lambeth to research mass participation; how to get there and the benefits. They found that a relatively small amount of public investment was necessary to accelerate the process and reach what they called a ‘thick participatory network’; a tipping point after which community participation became the norm, and self-perpetuated to create long-lasting social change. The benefits for human flourishing were substantial, and productivity increased dramatically, creating an abundance of self-employed and cooperative jobs.
These steps; the Job Guarantee and Community development are vital pieces of a Green Industrial strategy that Labour needs to embrace.
Job Guarantee (https://www.pavlina-tcherneva.net/job-guarantee-faq)
Transition Towns Network (https://transitionnetwork.org/)
Participatory Cities; (http://www.participatorycity.org/report-the-research/)
Andrea Grainger is an environmental campaigner and SERA member
The SERA blog regularly hosts content from SERA members and stakeholders - the views represented are the personal views of the author