UK Policy Briefings
A Green and Caring Economy
Date Posted: Thursday 10th November 2022
UK Feminist Green New Deal Final Report
A Green and Caring Economy
by Rebekah Diski for the Women’s Budget Group
The current economic system has delivered the intersecting crises of climate, ecological breakdown and inequality. It has sought growth at any cost, and has treated the earth, nature and people carelessly in pursuit of profit. Women and other marginalised groups have both borne the brunt of this exploitation and are most vulnerable to a climate changing and increasingly unequal world. Responding to these crises requires redesigning the economy around care: caring for the earth and its ecosystems, caring for the people who currently inhabit it, and caring for future generations.
The changes needed for a green and caring economy would rebalance economic activity away from energy-intensive and wasteful production and towards labour-intensive work that cares for people and planet. These changes would affect almost every aspect of our lives. This is a vision of shared abundance: we would meet everyone’s needs with well-designed public services and amenities, and with restored and flourishing biodiversity and green space; consume fewer goods but improve their quality; reuse and share more materials; spend less time in paid work without risking financial insecurity; spend more fulfilling time with our families, friends and communities; and value the labour that sustains life.
We identify four structural changes needed for a green and caring economy:
- Reorienting the economy: Put wellbeing above profit, moving away from energy-intensive and polluting industries and towards activities that care for people and planet, and ending GDP growth as our main economic objective.
- Changing ownership models: Democratise ownership of natural resources and basic services, overhauling the energy system including through a new public renewable energy company; rolling back private provision of care, ending public land sell-offs, and supporting alternative ownership models throughout the economy.
- Change how we raise and spend money: Put public investment in decarbonising physical infrastructure and expanding social infrastructure at the centre of UK fiscal and monetary strategy, supported by targeted subsidies and progressive taxation.
- Supporting a global green and caring economy: Build efforts to reorder the global economy around climate justice through debt relief, gender-sensitive climate finance, reforming international financial institutions, clamping down on tax havens and ending exploitative treaties.
Alongside these structural changes, the following shifts will enable life in a green and caring economy to support everyone’s wellbeing today while securing a liveable future for generations to come.
- Where and how we live: Implement a right to safe, decent and affordable housing following the most recent UN guidelines, where housing as a home is prioritised over housing as an asset; roll out a massive housing retrofit programme to reduce emissions and bills.
How we travel: Invest in a well-connected, integrated, affordable and widespread national public transport system, with an emphasis on improving bus services and walking and cycling routes.
How we work: Redistribute paid and unpaid work more equally, with a shorter, more flexible working week, ensuring all workers have access to decent, well-paid, secure and unionised jobs.
- Public investment and public sector jobs that support decarbonisation and care should be put at the core of the UK fiscal strategy, with targeted subsidies and taxation playing a supportive role in reducing the environmental footprint of the activities and investments of the private sector. Fiscal policies need to be conducive to the transformation of polluting activities (for example, through re-tooling and a reduction of their carbon intensity), the contraction of sectors that are inconsistent with the Paris Agreement targets (such as fossil fuels) and the expansion of sectors with a low environmental footprint that are conducive to a better quality of life (such as care).
- Low-carbon transport, green social housing, caring activities and the creation of parks and green spaces should be the focus of a public investment strategy that will target both the decarbonisation of our physical infrastructure and the expansion of social infrastructure. The design of public investment projects, such as the construction of social housing units and the development of urban transport systems, should take explicitly into account everyday practice and facilitate caring responsibilities. But they should also be combined with interventions and regulatory initiatives that transform our consumption norms.
- No one should be left behind because of the decarbonisation of our economies. Some workers might become unemployed due to the decline in high-carbon activities. To achieve a just transition for these workers, appropriate reskilling and upskilling are essential.
- The funding and financing of public investment and public sector jobs can rely on a combination of tools: (i) progressive taxation, wealth-related taxes and energy windfall taxes, (ii) the purchase of government bonds by the Bank of England within a new fiscal-monetary policy coordination institutional framework, and (iii) the issuance of government bonds linked specifically to the green and caring economy. A potential increase in public debt should not be viewed as a barrier, in contrast to what has been argued in standard austerity narratives.
- Public banking should be expanded and play a central core in the financing of green and caring activities.
- The decarbonisation of the UK private financial system should include both the operations of the Bank of England and financial regulation and should rely on a ‘carrot and stick’ approach that encourages the financing of green activities and discourages the financing of dirty activities.
The current financial system suffers from a gender bias and does not support activities that are essential for developing a caring economy. A diversity-based transformation of the UK financial system is, therefore, essential. Gender and diversity criteria should be introduced in the lending practices and operations of public banks, private banks and the Bank of England.