Green New Deal, Work in Progress
report by Sophie Agapitos
Panel: Edgar Szoc , researcher at Écolo, which, together with the Green European Foundation, is working on a report ‘Green New Deal, Work in Progress Wilbert Willems, alderman for GroenLinks in Breda (Nl), Leonore Gewessler – presentation Green European Foundation. Moderator: Marianne Saenen (member of the Walloon parliament for Écolo).
‘Green New Deal, Work in Progress’ is the title of a comparison by the Green European Foundation as part of a five-year programme on the subject, which will be published in spring. The foundation started in 2007, as an initiative of the European Parliament intended to counterbalance a growing Euro-scepticism by reinforcing the European political families’ research and capacity building capacities. Its aim is not to merge or replace, the national foundations, said Gewessler, but to establish links between those so they can profit from each others’ know-how, to stimulate exchange, provide a platform for networking, and ‘pool’ training facilities for emerging parties, and to issue in-depth reports for themes discussed on the European level.
The future of economy is ecology
The Green New Deal is one of the larger programmes.[i] The comparison, the second project, is based on texts of 12 parties that were inspired by the concept to formulate answers to the recent crises. Their texts vary widely, said Edgar Szoc, a researcher from GEFs Walloon counterpart Étopia that participates in the project. Some are presented as election manifestos, others as propositions for parliamentary debate, and yet others are detailed political programmes or even books, like Jean-Marc Nollets’ answer to no less than four crises: financial, energy, social and environmental.[ii]
Most texts however tend to go beyond the narrow definition proposed by several governments, international organisations and banks, which ask for massive investments in environmental sectors that create ‘green’ jobs: they see green jobs as a way to address climate change, and the only way to create sustainable jobs: ‘the future of economy is ecology’. Their proposals to reform of the financial sector, he said, may not be very different from proposals by social democrats – increase transparency, suppress tax havens. But their proposals to
Many ideas however, he said, haven’t yet been translated into policy measures, especially those proposing to re-localise the economy. An exception not yet included in the comparison, provides the Dutch Green party GroenLinks. It has made a local version of the European campaign theme – Groen Werkt, Green Works –for the local elections in March. Local measures are at the core, said Wilbert Willems, alderman in charge of culture, transport and environment in the southern-Dutch town of Breda, measures proposed by over a hundred local aldermen who inspire each other mutually.
In the case of Breda – and many other towns, the measures are already being carried out. ‘When I arrived in 2006, we participated in government for the first time, with only three seats in the council. But there was a real good basis for environment measures. What I added was the connection to job creation – to which the economic crisis has added an extra urgency. Our advantage was, that Breda still owns most services, like parking, waste collection, water supply, and a library. Most make profit, which enables me to finance the environment project.’
Climate Neutral by 2040
The project aims at making the town climate neutral by 2040. It consists of over 50 action plans, and also involves 19 local governments in the region. Some examples: An insulation and energy savings programme for social housing carried out by social housing companies that, in return, receive permission to construct new housing projects; a local Climate summit, co-organised with the energy company, banks, and housing companies; a programme training people on social welfare benefit as energy advisors; a More is less programme stimulating house owners to invest in energy saving measures – involving free advice and lower prices for the refurbishment; an ecological footprint measurement service for companies provided by five students, which helps to minimise the costs and maximize profit for the planet.
And the 27,5 million euros project for a 4 mW Green Power plant owned by the local government, which uses local sources like heat pumps and bio-fuels from the surrounding woodlands, and supplies 6000 households with energy, 2000 of which newly built and 4000 refurbished according to the latest energy saving standards. ‘This project, for which the town has invested 30 million euros’, said Willems, ‘will prove that a household can be independent from fossil fuels and still save 10 percent on energy costs’.
Multinationals or local control?
Willems: The plan involves both decentralisation of the production of energy and bringing it back under local control – two parts of the same solution: as long as everyone has his own central heating and energy supply, you cannot joint the efforts. .
Q (Frans Alkemade, GroenLinks, climate specialist): ‘I am in favour of re-collectivisation. But I’m not convinced that decentralisation is the way to go. It probably means that the system won’t be scalable to the whole town, and isn’t the most efficient way to produce energy. Why don’t you feed the bio-fuels into the existing large coal plant? It might be cheaper and you might get more energy out of it too.’
Willems: ‘We have compared several options. This size proved to be the most cost-effective; it will make profit in seven years. And when you have your heat produced by the plant in Geertruidenberg, 40 kilometres away, you have a considerable loss of temperature.’
Q: ‘How many jobs will the projects create?’
Willems: ‘That question is too complicated to answer yet. But without them, those jobs certainly wouldn’t have existed.’
Q: ‘Will your party get the benefit for the initiative in March? Having a minority position in the local coalition, you are not very visible.’
Willems: ‘Other parties don’t address environment issues. We don’t only highlight the CO2 reduction results, we also can prove their cost-effectiveness: users pay less. So our PR job is quite easy. But it is equally important, to talk to other partners in society, like companies and schools.’
[i]Other publications: a Handbook on the European Citizens’initiative, a Handbook on Campaigning. The GEF also has a Web platform on which articles by national foundations are published.
[ii]Jean-Marc Nollet : Le Green Deal, proposition pour une sortie de crises. Le Cri, Bruxelles 2008.