— Maria Ohisalo

It is time for a Green New Deal

Maria Ohisalo

The pressure is high to create a sustainable and fair society. A society that takes seriously tackling climate change and poverty, both at the same time.

It is visible in many ways: in reception centres for asylum seekers, people losing their jobs because of changes in the labour market, climate strikes by schoolchildren and Greta Thunberg’s powerful words about climate change.

We the Greens answer to the call by proposing a Green New Deal.

The Green New Deal creates a fair transition to a sustainable society. It combines ecological, social and financial sustainability.

My background is in poverty research. I have interviewed people on the breadline and talked with the homeless, interviewed people with substance abuse problems and had my loved ones struggling with problems.

I know how hard it is to plan for the future if all income is spent on rent, food and medication, and one single unexpected expense must be covered by a short-term loan. It is difficult to plan the future if you work on a zero-hour contract and further work cannot be found.

The Green New Deal means a strong welfare state support network providing opportunities for everyone.

The market economy can be involved in solving the climate crisis, but not without common ground rules.

It is up to governments to create fair rules to ensure that all business is conducted by taking our planet’s carrying capacity into account. Carbon emissions must not create an unfair competitive advantage - be it Airline industry, manufacturing or energy production. Prosperity must not be generated by stealing from our children and grandchildren.

The transition to a sustainable society does not mean that jobs will disappear. It will generate new jobs - even ones that can be hard to predict at this stage.

The Green New Deal means a green economy encouraging businesses to invest in the circular economy, zero-emission energy production and resource efficiency.

An energy system reform to prevent climate change is absolutely necessary.

The green answer to fossil fuels is clear: they cannot have a place in a sustainable energy system. At the same time, we must acknowledge the very difficult human impacts of this policy. Everyone engaged in honest work with fossil energy has the right to livelihood even after the energy transformation. This requires education and support for those hit hardest by the transformation.

Revival of ecosystems, reconstruction of the welfare state and restoration of respect for education will ensure that we hold onto what is most valuable in life.

The Green New Deal is no utopia, it is the only possible solution.

Author is the chairperson of the Greens in Finland and Minister of the Interior.