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UK Policy Briefing

Sustainable lifestyle changes for a green and caring economy

Feminist Green New Deal Policy Paper

Rebekah Diski

UK Feminist Green New Deal Policy Papers

Sustainable lifestyle changes for a green and caring economy

by Rebekah Diski for the Women’s Budget Group

Responding to the inequality and climate crises will involve rethinking the economy itself. The current system rests on the extractive logic that nature and human labour are there to exploit for profit and economic growth, causing gross inequality and environmental breakdown. Most politicians cling to the fantasy that we can face these crises with our current economic model, but we need a plausible, hopeful vision for a green and caring economy: one that puts wellbeing over profit. Crucial to this is democratising the natural resources and basic services we need to survive and thrive, redefining access to land, food, energy, water, and care as rights rather than
commodities to enrich global corporations. This paper sets outs some of the changes we will need to see in key sectors of our economy and the way we interact with them. It is a vision of how our lives could change for the better, rather than a policy roadmap of how to get there.

Decarbonising and reducing energy use is crucial. The UK is the 17th largest contributor to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, although this belies the true impact of its historical emissions and those associated with the overseas goods we consume today. It poses as a climate action leader, but the government is off-track to meet its own targets and continues to pursue climate-wrecking policies such as drilling for more oil and gas, airport expansion, and road building, while doing little about the enormous household emissions of the UK’s draughty homes. Many high-emitting sectors will need to shrink, retool, or in the case of fossil fuels wind down altogether, while ensuring a genuinely just transition for affected workers and communities. At the same time, massive public investment in social infrastructure like care will both create more jobs and reduce inequality.

All sectors will need to limit their climate and ecological impact with renewable energy, resource efficiency and waste reduction. We look at the construction and garment industries to demonstrate some of the challenges facing high-emitting sectors, while arguing that relatively low-carbon sectors like health and care must grow while also further reducing their emissions and resource use. Alongside this, sectors should be desegregated, with equal access to employment opportunities and decent pay and conditions guaranteed for all workers. But decarbonisation is not enough. As the 2022 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made clear, we also need to shift consumption patterns through sustainable lifestyle changes.2 But most of us lack the power and resources to reduce the impact of the goods and services we consume. We need structural change to make low and no-carbon options cheaper and more accessible. This is not a vision of austerity, but of shared abundance: we would meet everyone’s needs with excellent public services and amenities; 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 and friends and in our communities; and value the labour that sustains life. In a green and caring economy this would involve changing:

How we travel: reorienting away from car-centric transport with investment in affordable, accessible, and sustainable public transport and active travel, while reducing excessive air travel by the rich through progressive taxes.

What and how we eat: rethinking nutritious and sustainable food as a right rather than a profitable commodity, with public investment to support more plant-based and nature friendly diets and create decent jobs in agroecological farming.

How we work: redistributing paid and unpaid work more equitably, addressing the gender pay gap, and reducing work-related emissions through a shorter working week, allowing people to fulfil their potential in and outside of formal work.

How we care: massive public investment to put care at the centre of a green and caring economy, valuing care recipients and workers, and creating millions of good, inherently low-carbon jobs.

Read the full policy paper here.

About the Feminist Green New Deal project

The Feminist Green New Deal is bringing a gendered and intersectional approach/perspective to the Green economy/Green Recovery – ensuring that the voices of women, people of colour and other marginalised groups are heard during environmental and political debates.

Through a programme of nationwide grassroots workshops and policy roundtables a Feminist Green New Deal Manifesto will be created and launched at COP26 Glasgow Climate Talks.

This Project is a collaboration between Wen (Women’s Environmental Network) and the Women’s Budget Group (WBG).

Learn more about the project here.

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