Author:  Ann Pettifor     Verso  (2019)


This is arguably the most important book in the field written in the 21st century.  The following account is based on extensive quotations.   MB    ___________________________________________________

            “The law locks up the man or woman

            Who steals the goose from off the common

            But leaves the greater villain loose

            Who steals the common from the goose.

                             (17th century Anonymous)

“The Green New Deal is a demand for a revolution in international financial relationships, in the globalised economy, and in humanity’s relationship to nature.  …  An end to the toxic ideology and institutions of capitalism, based on extreme individualism, greed, consumption and competition - and fuelled by spiralling levels of unregulated credit. …  We demand, and will build, an economy based on social and economic justice, one that celebrates the altruism, cooperation and collective responsibility that is a characteristic of human nature.” (p172)

“For humanity to survive on a liveable planet there is an urgency to what we must, and can, do.  We are facing extinction. The Earth’s complex life support systems of atmosphere, oceans, land surface and life forms are at the point of breakdown, according to the world’s top scientists.  (pxi)

“For the UK and US, as well as other OECD countries, averting climate breakdown means cutting CO2 emissions by 80% by 2030 and reaching a zero carbon economy by 2040.”  (pxii)

“To protect Earth’s life support systems and to achieve such a radical transformation we must escape from capitalism’s globalised, carbon-belting financial system - designed and engineered to issue trillions of dollars of unregulated credit to fund supposedly limitless consumption, and in turn to furiously fuel toxic emissions.”  (ppxii-xiii)

“We can - and to survive we must - transform and even end within the next ten years {written in 2019] the failed system of capitalism that now threatens to collapse the Earth’s life support systems and with them human civilisation.  We must replace that economic system with one that respects boundaries and limits;  one that nurtures ‘soils, aquifers, rainfall, ice, the patterns of winds nd currents, pliinators, biological abundance and diversity’:  one that delivers social and economic justice.”  (pxv)

The answer is “a Green New Deal, with Justice for All.”  (p1) 

“To tackle climate change we need to tackle the root cause of growing toxic emissions:  [that is the] self-regulating, globalised financial system that pours exponential quantities of unregulated credit into the hands of speculators and consumers. … Only once we switch off the ‘tap’ of ‘easy money’ will it be possible to switch off the flow of oil and other fossil fuels.”  (pp8-9)

[We need] “a carbon army to make every building a power station.…The production and distribution of clean energy will demand the skills, professionalism and experience of many that currently work in an industry that must contract until it finally shuts down - the fossil fuel industry.”  (p16) 

“A world in which labour substitutes for carbon;  a de-carbonised economy will be a job-rich, labour-intensive economy.  In it, we will do far more walking and cycling;  we will not fly; we will give up meat and grow and consume local, seasonal, slow food.  We will make and repair our own garments, rather than exploiting low-paid workers in far-off places.  We will use both the sun’s energy and human energy efficiently .”  (p67)


Principle One:  A Steady State Economy

“An economy that sustains life on Earth … will not exceed the nine ecological boundaries: stratospheric ozone depletion;  loss of biosphere integrity (biodiversity loss and extinctions);  chemical pollution and the release of novel entities;  climate change;  ocean acidification;  freshwater consumption and the global hydrological cycle;  land system change;  nitrogen and phosphorus flows to the biosphere and oceans;  atmospheric aerosol loading.”  (pp93-94)

Principle Two:  Limited Needs, Not Limitless Wants

“Place strict limits on the apparently limitless consumption of capitalist economies and societies”. (p95)

“While survival is the most basic human need, all people require health and autonomy for effective social participation.  … In addition, the GND defines the following basic needs as essential:  adequate, nutritious food and water;  protective housing;  non-hazardous physical and work environments;  security in childhood;  significant primary relationships;  physical security;  economic security;  safe birth control and child-bearing;  basic education.”  (p96)

Principle Three:  Self-sufficiency

“All nations will aim at self-sufficiency in the provision of human needs, goods and services for their citizens.  While ideas, knowledge, inventions and art will be international, ‘goods will be homespun’.”  (p97)

Principle Four: A Mixed-Market Economy

“The state will undertake those activities most appropriate for collective action, while the market will facilitate the transaction of goods and services provided with the steady state framework.

“The way this could work will be for the state to invest in the big transformational projects - for example, the acquisition and reforestation of large swathes of land,  the building of mass transit and the retrofitting of buildings.”  (p99

Principle Five:  A Labour-Intensive Economy

“Activities currently driven by energy derived from fossil fuels will run on renewable energy.  Those activities that cannot be powered by the sun’s energy will be undertaken by human energy: labour.” (pp99-100)

Principle Six:  Monetary / Fiscal Co-ordination for a Steady State

“Fiscal policy deals with taxation and government spending and is often administered by a government department; while monetary policy deals with the money supply, interest rates and is often administered by a country’s central bank.” Wikipedia

“We must reverse neoliberalism’s elevation of monetary policy over fiscal policy” (p103)

“Full employment is fundamental to the Green New Deal.  To create full employment, the monetary authorities will, via the central bank, provide (‘macro’) clients like the government, banks and pension funds with loans and deposits, just as commercial banks provide loans and deposits to (‘micro’) firms and individuals.”  (p103)

[macroeconomy = the economy in aggregate;  microeconomy = the economy of households for example]

“Before Keynes, economists thought of the economy largely in ‘micro’ terms - and many still do. … Keynes argued that “the debt of a nation to its own citizens is a very different thing from the debt of a private individual”. (pp103-104)

In the Green New Deal “the public authorities in charge of fiscal policy will use loan-finance to spend and support investment in productive activity that will transform the economy away from fossil fuels, create jobs and generate tax revenues.” (pp104-105)

“We should be cautious about carbon taxes. … They could have an important but limited role to play as part of a far more fundamental reshaping of the economy, but to be effective they should be targeted at the biggest emitters”. (p105)

Principle Seven:  Abandon Delusions of Infinite Expansion

“Financialised capitalism assumes the global economy has infinite capacity for the addition and consumption of goods and services;  hence the obsession with ‘growth’. … The concept of growth as the objective of all economic policy was adopted by the newly founded OECD in 1961.”  (pp107-108)

“John Stuart Mill first launched the idea of a ‘stationary state’ in 1857 - a system of zero growth in population and physical stock, but with advances in technology and ethics.”  (p109

“The great question for environmental macroeconomics is one of optimal scale.  What is the potential scale of an economy that can be operationalised within safe ecological limits.  … We need an economic Plimsoll line that caps the macroeconomy at a sustainable level.” (pp114)-115)


Posted by MB on 8 September 2020.