A decade ago we faced a profound choice. We were the last generation that had the power to stop
irreversible climate change and the destruction of our natural systems. We could have continued to
tinker with an economic model driving environmental breakdown. That would have guaranteed deepening
climate emergency, where those least responsible for crisis would have continued to bear the highest
Instead, we chose a Green New Deal. Powered and led by social movements, workers, and communities at the sharp end of breakdown, we built an ambitious politics that matched the scale of mounting crisis.
We knew that relying on market-based allocation would never deliver changes on the speed and scale required. Instead, driven by a step change in public investment, a green industrial strategy, and new models of democratic ownership, a Green New Deal helped rapidly and justly decarbonise the economy, creating the conditions for new and universal forms of human flourishing.
A Green New Deal reconfigured society. Our towns and cities were reimagined. Space was transformed, social life changed for the better, and communities began to flourish in unexpected places. New ways of working and living, new ways of creating, measuring and distributing value, helped to shape a new economy. In the place of private accumulation, we began to focus on shared public affluence and new ways of stewarding, nurturing and caring for life.
Our old financial system sustained an unequal and unsustainable economy, investing too little in
ecologically sustainable infrastructures, industries, and technologies. A Green New Deal changed all
that, harnessing the power of finance to serve the needs of people and planet.
Firstly, people began to gain more access to funding for projects in their cities, thanks to a network of regional public green investment banks. That brought more outdoor markets and local projects. It helped to democratise finance and gave small traders more autonomy.
That public investment unleashed a wave of green innovation, social entrepreneurship, and community wealth building. Private financial institutions were reshaped to drive decarbonisation, with new requirements to green their investment, stop extractive behaviours, and improve transparency.
Bringing finance under democratic control – from the local to the national to international scale – wasn’t easy. It involved a hard political struggle. But with an overhaul of the architecture of finance, we were able to take back the reigns and steer the economy through a rapid and just transition.
Looking back, it is hard to remember why we gave our cities and towns over to the needs of private motor
vehicles. In place of the pollution, traffic, and costs of a world where the car was sovereign, we built
a transport network that better served our real needs: low-carbon, affordable, healthy and
public-oriented ways of getting around.
That meant free public transport systems, shared cargo bikes, electric taxi coops and high-speed rail. Crucially, these systems developed through an interconnected, unified public transit system, which made for better planning and more efficient travel for commuters.
People were late less often. Transit became a lot more enjoyable. With electric bus fleets smoothly gliding across streets empty of traffic, solar trains crisscrossing the country, cycling lanes weaving across towns, and trams lacing through the groves of our cities, a world of integrated, multi-modal transport made low-carbon travel easy.
We swapped our old combustion engines for electric vehicles. Many still drove, but private ownership increasingly gave way to community and municipal-owned ride-sharing networks. The fall in traffic further improved public transport systems.
How we move tells a lot about how we live. In place of privatised travel, a Green New Deal created a society of affordable, public, and sustainable movement, a world of communal autonomy and shared comfort.
A green industrial strategy actively reshaped the structure of our economy, scaling sectors and forms of
work centred on serving social and environmental needs. It was a collective, mission-oriented
transformation of work that justly transitioned carbon-intensive sectors to new forms of activity. New
forms of investment, democratic ownership and economic coordination were the tools.
Going to work became a different affair altogether. Local production and maker spaces helped to develop a 21st century culture of craft-making. Instead of a labour market of stagnant wages and precarious labour, a UK Green New Deal supported rewarding, secure, and purposeful work.
Innovative vocational and training systems equipped people with the capacity to do well in an economy needing many skills and talents. People became more engaged in their work, and took more from it day-to-day.
Unions thrived. An extension of sectoral bargaining helped drive up wages, improved the quality of work and the pace of green transition. A radical expansion in democratic ownership gave all workers and communities a meaningful stake and a say in their workplaces and economy.
A UK Green New Deal reshaped the spaces of our cities and towns to become rich and meaningful social
sites of dialogue and creativity. With urban allotments and more public space, a UK Green New Deal
nurtured a 21st-century commons in place of an economy built on unsustainable extraction and enclosure.
New forms of communal luxury – cultural spaces, parks, civic spaces and free social goods – were created or restored, making life more joyful, caring, and ultimately more unexpected.
Ownership and control of data and digital technologies were reshaped to serve the common good. Carefully managed data commons enabled effective democratic planning that helped to better distribute resources. Mass, open-source deployment of zero-carbon technologies spurred a wave of new inventions and engineering.
Just as the Industrial Revolution created its own patterns of work and social life, a Green New Deal meant new rhythms of work and leisure. Through a reduction in working hours, a more sustainable working culture emerged. With more time to build culture, a Green New Deal brought more festivals, block parties, and neighbourhood gatherings to our towns and cities. We had more time to be outside, and more time to look after one another.
The UK had made significant progress in transforming its energy system before the Green New Deal began.
But the 2020s saw energy generation radically decentralised and completely decarbonised.
A wave of investment rapidly scaled up renewable energy and supported a just transition – with unions at its heart – away from carbon-heavy energy sectors. With a new wave of regional public energy companies, co-ops, community and local businesses, 100% renewable power became a reality.
The national grid was transformed, and distribution networks were localised in our cities and towns, making them more energy efficient.
Locally-owned biomass energy systems meant recycling and collectivising energy through district heating. Communities became more interconnected and intentionally-minded when it came to energy use.
Affordable power, green jobs, and less pollution – a renewable energy transformation delivered more than just clean power.
Little more than a decade ago, we were in the midst of a deep, multi-dimensional housing crisis. Too
many couldn’t afford a decent home, with many suffering from poor quality housing and deep inequalities
of wealth and security. A Green New Deal helped change all that. The UK government put its weight behind
an unprecedented effort to upgrade and expand our building stock.
A wave of retrofitting unleashed an army of green construction work that also served to deliver good, secure and unionised work. Local authorities were given the tools and resources needed to build a new wave of low-carbon, affordable homes that met the needs of their communities.
Homes and buildings were made more energy efficient and their heating systems upgraded and decarbonised. Bills came down as the quality of housing went up. A Green New Deal meant everyone had a decent place they could call home.
New patterns of land ownership and use supported effective planning and design. Houses adopted new technologies that made them more interesting, multivalent and dynamic places to live.
The Green New Deal City of 2030 is produced by Common Wealth in collaboration with Autonomy UK's
spatial research team, Autonomy_Urban
Exec - Mathew Lawrence
Concept - Julian Siravo
Design - Julian Siravo and Cosimo Campani
Text - Josh Gabert-Doyon
Web Dev - Nikolaos Pappas