Friday, May 15, 2009

The Green New Deal

The Greens today released their plans for an economic stimulus package - the Green New Deal [PDF]. It's good, serious policy, lightyears from the flakey stuff people like to parody them as putting out. And it looks pretty good.

The core of the policy, both in spending and job creation, is a proposal to build 6,000 new energy-efficient state houses, plus 1500 new community-sector houses. This will not only help ease the Housing NZ waiting list and contribute to the upgrading of New Zealand’s housing stocks - it will also create 10,400 direct and 17,600 indirect jobs, a significant boost to employment. It's exactly the sort of infrastructural project we should be pursuing as a stimulus package, but I can't see National going for it, for the simple reason that (as people who tend to own rental properties) they regard state and community housing as direct competition. That is, when they're not actively promoting the interests of their slumlord mates.

The second major initiative is to redirect transport spending to public transport such as the electrification of Auckland's rail system. This is again a no-brainer - we need to do it, and it produces more jobs than road building - but again National's sheer hostility to public transport will mean the idea never gets off the ground. They're too snobby to use it, so they won't build it for anyone else, end of story.

Home insulation is the third strand, and while they suggest big increases, its subject to huge capacity constraints. The Greens suggest dealing with this by funding appropriate training, and that's a smart idea as well. The paybacks from insulation are enormous - the primary benefit is in health, not energy savings - and we criminally underfund it at the moment. Stepping up investment in this area ought to be a total no-brainer, and doing so is a part of the Green-National MOU. So this part might actually happen.

Finally, there's some very vague stuff about cleaning up waterways, and some kibble around community waste-management and recycling, which looks cheap in terms of its payback, and costs pocket change. labour would probably have given it to them just to see if it worked; with anti-environmentalism now a core part of the right-wing creed, I can't see that happening.

Overall, this is good, solid policy. But sadly, I can't see very much of it being adopted by the present government.