Last week, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez brought the ‘Green New Deal for Public Housing Act’ to US congress. This is the first overt action to bring the Green New Deal to life since the resolution was released this February. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, the Green New Deal is essentially a ten-year plan to greatly reduce US emissions through mass deployment of renewable energies, huge investment in green infrastructure (particularly public transport) and the creation of numerous ‘green jobs’. The deal places great emphasis on addressing the climate crisis and social justice crisis as dual-issues, and also endeavours to provide free Medicare and Education for All.
The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act specifically focuses on enhancing over one million units of public housing through zero-carbon upgrades. The bill allocates over $172 billion US dollars to fund this project and it would create roughly 240,000 jobs every year. According to research by The Nation, this would be the equivalent of taking 1.2 million cars off the road in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Not only would it reduce emissions, it would also create safer and healthier neighbourhoods and boost employment in poorer areas. The Act is extraordinary in its scope and ambition, and some critics have dismissed it as being ‘too unrealistic’. This commentary is to be expected in the face of any trillion-dollar plan, but truthfully, the whole world should be taking note. Most of all, Ireland.
Ireland has been getting a lot of bad press for poor performance on climate change, and rightly so. We have missed our emissions targets three years running and currently have the third-highest emissions per capita in the EU. This trend shows no signs of reversing any time soon. Ireland is also suffering from a housing crisis, in case you haven’t heard (or have been living under a rock – I’d say you can get a good price for it on rent.ie). An extreme deficit in housing within the capital has driven prices to an all-time high, forcing people to rent indefinitely or move further and further out – often to locations where public transport is poor (read: non-existent) and where owning a car is a necessity. This results in an inexhaustible list of problems including financial insecurity, deteriorating physical and mental health and ultimately, homelessness.
As of September 2019, there were 10,397 people without homes in Ireland. Over one-third of these are children. This is unacceptable and is ultimately the result of a broken housing system. We need more public housing. We need an Irish Green New Housing Act. This would be a project undertaken by the Irish Government whereby zero-carbon, energy efficient public housing would be deployed and upgraded over the next ten years, providing numerous jobs in the process. Green communities would be created with adequate links to an improved public transport network that runs completely off renewables. Imagine.
Imagine an Ireland where issues of public interest are favoured over the interests of private entities. Where we provide for our people and our environment. These are issues that cannot be kept separate and it has long been known that under a climate crisis it will be the poorest and already vulnerable who will be the first hit, and the worst hit. Here is a plan to address two of our most pressing issues in tandem. As the Emerald Isle, let’s truly take up the mantle of being ‘green’ and become a leader on these issues.
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