Why is it that a small think tank of the Scottish Left is able to do something that no government in the world is capable of: Planning a Green New Deal in detail?
Common Weal is a ‘think and do tank’ campaigning for social and economic equality in Scotland.
You can download the complete plan here
What is the Common Home Plan?
The world is under threat from a series of approaching environmental crises and Scotland is a country which still has enduring social failures like poverty and inequality. Many people are pessimistic.
The Common Home Plan is a reason for optimism and hope. It is a costed proposal for how to avert the environmental crises, transform Scotland and get the nation ready for the era to come. Developed by the Common Weal think tank, it fulfills Scotland’s responsibility to the rest of the world – and to ourselves as well. It’s how we can both improve our quality of life now and leave future generations a legacy we can be proud of.
What’s in it?
The Common Home Plan is made up of ten sections – buildings, heating, electricity, transport, food, land, resources, trade, learning and ‘us’ (about our lifestyle and culture). Each sets out a full programme of action, explaining how these aspects of life in Scotland need to change if we are to reverse environmental harm and social failure. Some are big engineering projects (insulating buildings, replacing our gas heating, moving to all-renewable electricity), some are about the choices we make (achieving zero- waste, regenerating Scotland’s land, changing how we shop). It has been developed by dozens of leading experts in their field and represents our best chance of leaving future generations a planet they can live on and a Scotland they want to live in.
Everything in the Common Home Plan is based on one simple truth – this is Our Common Home and it is our collective duty to look after it. Some of the work in the Plan is on a scale as great as anything achieved by the Victorians or the post-war generation. Just as we built roads or sewers or schools or hospitals not as individuals but as a society, so the work of the Common Home Plan can only be delivered as a major public project. The environmental threats we face are the result of the structures of our society and our economy and not the fault of individuals. The change we need is structural; the effort we need is collective.
What will it cost?
There is no getting away from it – the work that needs to be done can’t be done on the cheap. Tasks such as moving to a transport system that doesn’t use petrol or a heating system that doesn’t use gas involve major investment. Common Weal has worked with experts to cost everything in the Plan. It will take 25 years to complete all of it and over those years we will need to spend a total of £170 billion. It sounds like a lot, but really it’s a small price to pay for saving our planet and keeping our population safe. After all, it isn’t all that much more than Scotland’s share of the bank bail-out from 2009.
So how do we pay for it?
This money will be spent over the course of 25 years and if we do it right it will serve many, many generations of Scots to come – so we don’t need to pay for it all in one go. If we borrow to invest this money we can then pay it off over 50 years because we’re only going to do this once. That would leave us with a bill of about £5 billion a year.
But when you spend that kind of money it creates an awful lot of jobs and causes an awful lot of prosperity to flow through the Scottish economy. The Common Home Plan will create at least 100,000 jobs and would increase the amount of tax collected in Scotland by at least £4 billion – which is most of the bill paid for. But that’s not all because it also earns public money in other ways. For example, the Common Home Plan would mean that Scotland’s energy system would be in public ownership so the public would make the profits. That alone is worth £2.5 billion every year. Not only does that mean the bill is paid for, it leaves billions of pounds of extra income to spend on public services.
And that’s not all either – entire new industries will be built, like an advanced wood processing industry, a hydrogen export business and new food sectors. As well as paying for the cost of the work the Common Home Plan creates a Scottish economy which will be strong and healthy for many, many years to come. How do we pay for it? We don’t – it more than pays for itself.
What is in the Plan?
There is an awful lot in the Plan. You can get an idea of what life would be like after it is all implemented here and read more about what is in each of its sections here. The following is a very quick summary of some of the key action points from the plan:
- Buildings: All new construction must be energy-neutral and have at least 60-year lifespan | Renovate rather than demolish | Set up National Housing Company and insulate all existing homes to 90 per cent efficiency | Make all construction materials organic or recycled | Make all public buildings ‘energy positive’ | Require businesses to achieve high heating efficiency but provide subsidies for small businesses | All electrical goods must have AAA efficiency rating
- Heating: Set up an Energy Development Agency to plan the shift to renewable heating | Set up a National Energy Company to install a national District Heating System with renewable heat generation | Install renewable heating in off-gas-grid houses | Invest in training the workforce | Establish a Heat Supply Act to make this happen
- Electricity: The Energy Development Agency plans the move to a zero- carbon electricity | Set up a National Energy Company to build the generation and energy storage | Build electrolysis plants to generate hydrogen for energy storage | Nationalise and upgrade the National Grid with local storage and ‘smart grid’ technologies | Gradually take existing generation capacity into public ownership | Use an Industrial Strategy to develop domestic supply chains for all of this | End the extraction of oil and gas in Scotland
- Transport: Create a National Transport Company to plan the transition to carbon-free travel | Use better planning to reduce the need for car journeys | Begin installing charging and refueling infrastructure for zero-carbon vehicles | Replace or retrofit existing public transport to be zero-carbon | Commission more hydrogen ferries | Develop an air transport strategy
- Food: Set up a National Food Agency to plan a transition to a regenerative food system | Move to an agro ecological system for Scotland’s food production | Implement a strategy to greatly reduce food waste | Invest in new forms of food growing like vertical farming | Shorten supply chains by supporting new food processing businesses in Scotland | Strengthen regulation of the food industry and redesign farming subsidy regimes to encourage agroecology | Use pricing mechanisms to embed environmental externalities in the cost of food | Pursue import substitution to reduce the environmental impact of unnecessary imports | Institute a legal Right to Food to ensure that changes to the food system do not harm the access to healthy nutrition of anyone in Scotland | Consider implementing a Universal Basic Income
- Land: Set up a National Land Agency to oversee the management of Scotland’s land | It should then deliver a target of 50 per cent reforesting | Introduce a process of National Land Planning to zone rural land for specific purposes | Strengthened regulation and reporting on land management | Train roughly 20,000 additional land managers | Take direct action to diversify land ownership in Scotland | Develop a rural industrial strategy | Allocate fishing quotas on the basis of environmental performance | Implement Scotland’s water shortage plan
- Resources: Set up a National Resources Agency to oversee the move to zero waste | Develop a circular economy | Set a hierarchy for resource use: deconsumerise → dematerialise → simplify → share → reuse → remanufacture → compost → and only then recycle | Create a national waste collection and reprocessing service | Use ‘Producer Responsibility’ to make manufacturers responsible for the full lifecycle of the goods they produce | Use ‘externality taxes’ to ensure the price of goods reflects their true lifecycle costs | Invest in a wide range of initiatives like National Deposit Return schemes, container standardisation and tool libraries to optimise resource use | Ban single-use plastic | Regulate to discourage and then end the use of most single-use materials | Set up a National Consumer Agency to monitor all products, require them to be manufactured along circular economy lines and ban particularly harmful materials altogether
The Common Home Plan has been an enormous amount of work for Common Weal – but we’re not finished yet. It is so important that Scotland begins the real work of transforming its impact on the world that Common Weal will be dedicating 2020 to campaigning to help people learn about the plan, persuading them to support it and building up pressure on politicians to take action now. We can only do this with the help of a lot of people. If you’d like to be one of them, you can find out more here.
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