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Common Wealth    |  A think-thank for the future

The Green Recovery Act 2020

The Green Recovery Act is a new 9-step policy package and proposed Act of Parliament. The Act, authored by Ewan McGaughey and introduced by Mathew Lawrence, seeks to drive a fair and green economic recovery while securing 100% renewable energy, ending climate damage from coal, oil and gas, creating full employment based on democratic workplaces, and ensuring clear skies, clean cities, a prosperous countryside, and a thriving planet.

It comes at a momentous juncture – an unprecedented public health emergency has once again exposed and deepened longstanding inequalities within society. The impact of Covid-19 has fallen unevenly along gender, race, and class lines, with working class and ethnic minority people hardest hit. The virus may not discriminate, but society does, both structurally and systematically.
The economic crisis triggered by the effects of sustained lockdown – the sharpest recession in 300 years, with unemployment expected to surge to levels not seen in decades – is profound and traumatic. And it has sharpened an underlying crisis of care, underscoring how the work of producing and sustaining life is foundational to all economic activity, yet remains undervalued and marginalised, with its burdens unequally distributed, gendered and racialised.

Into this moment has risen up a vital worldwide movement demanding justice that has long been denied, seeking to dismantle interlocking forms of oppression, state violence, and the deep harms and structural inequalities of racialised capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy.
Looming above everything is the mounting climate and environmental emergency – an emergency that reflects the accumulated effects of an extractive and unequal global economy, one intimately bound up with ongoing histories of empire and colonialism, where those least responsible for the crisis are most exposed to the consequences of accelerating breakdown.  

There is still time to avert the worst damage, mitigate inevitable harm, and put us on the path to a more humane and liveable future. But this will require more than marginal adjustments. As signs at recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations across the world have spelled out, “The system isn’t broken, it was built this way.”

To secure racial, economic and climate justice, which are inseparable, we cannot simply reinflate the old economy as Covid-19 wanes; rather, we must reimagine our foundational economic and political institutions, seizing the moment to build a new economic model that is democratic, equitable, and sustainable by design.
This may seem like a radical step, but in an era of environmental breakdown and structural inequality, transformative action is the safest and fairest path forward. A dogged defence of the status quo will guarantee the acceleration of environmental breakdown; a willingness to only tweak a model driving us deeper into crisis is the truly extreme position.

In this context, if we want to secure a future where everyone can flourish in dignity and freedom, in a thriving, interconnected living world, transformation is a modest proposal. The challenge is clear. Our future is radically undetermined, but retreating to incrementalism is a dangerous false comfort. Instead, we must meet a systemic crisis with an agenda for systemic change.
There’s reason to be hopeful. The UK has reduced its carbon emissions since 1990 while becoming wealthier as a whole. But progress has stalled. We urgently need to increase the speed of decarbonisation – including in sectors such as transport where emissions have barely fallen in decades – if we’re to avoid contributing to catastrophic global temperature rises.
A root and branch transformation will require us to rewrite the UK’s legal framework to restructure society toward equity, substantive democracy, and sustainability. Until now debate has rightly centred on the need – and historic opportunity given the ultra-low cost of public borrowing – for a transformative, debt-financed step-change in public investment to underpin a green recovery.
Common Wealth’s proposed Green Recovery Act 2020 offers a blueprint for such a transformation – an intervention that seeks to rapidly decarbonise economic activity, democratise decision-making, and fairly wind down the fossil fuel industry while simultaneously scaling up a post-carbon economy of shared prosperity.
The Green Recovery Act requires change as fast as technologically practicable, not distant target dates. Its fiscal cost is zero, and it delivers immense savings. It has nine parts:

4. Empower local authorities to deliver clean local transport systems, a retrofitting revolution and pensions that invest in a clean future.
5. New duties to negotiate international agreements with green principles at their heart to address longstanding harms.
8. A ban on coal, oil and gas with strict exceptions; and introduce liability for climate damage to treat the emergency with the urgency it requires.
7. Secure the jobs and industry of a renewable energy future and support the managed wind-down of the fossil fuel sector to deliver a clean energy transition.
1. A Green Recovery Commission, to deliver the investment needed to drive transition.
2. Guarantee Full employment, Incomes, Training (a FIT guarantee’) to secure a just transition.
9. Ensure sustainable stewardship in agriculture with new duties on farming and supermarkets to eliminate emissions and waste.
6. Decarbonise transport, by accelerating the decarbonisation of mobility and scaling an ambitious low-carbon public transport system.
3. Democratise and decarbonise finance and corporate governance, to join together climate and economic justice.

Read the Act in full: