July and August 2021 appear to be propelled into the midst of the tipping point of the climate emergency. As we witness gruesome scenes from Lake Euboea in Greece, where an infernal circle surrounds (now) climate refugees fleeing on a ferry. Life is like a disaster movie. This has happened and is happening on all continents of the world as well. Severe flooding hit Belgium, Germany and parts of the UK. There are severe droughts in the western United States, East Africa, and fires in Canada and Siberia. The Amazon rainforest is no longer the carbon sink that climatologists hoped would stabilize carbon emissions.
The climate crisis is real, it is taking the lives of not only people, but other species as well. It is the result of two centuries of burning fossil fuels and emitting carbon into our atmosphere that remains there for 60,000 years. We are rushing headlong into a climate change that has not been experienced by any hominid on Earth. We are approaching sea levels at the time of the Miocene; levels unknown on Earth for 15 million years.
So what would the Green Party of England and Wales do if we were in government right now?
First, we suggest that a Green government insist on holding “Global Climate Crisis Talks” with immediate effect. We would urge the rest of the world to take urgent and immediate action in response to these events. We will insist that climate refugees have a safe haven and that attempts be made to support communities facing heat waves and epidemics of hell. We would approach COP 26 with short, medium and long term strategies that could save future generations from oblivion.
Then we would look at our own practices in the UK. Which require rapid intervention in times of war. We must wage a war on the climate crisis – luckily we have known from the 1930s and 1940s that with government-led mobilization of society, huge changes can be made very quickly. We can change!
The Green Party would end any new road construction project that has yet to begin. We have enough roads in the UK, and we know that more roads would encourage more private vehicle ownership – therefore increase carbon emissions and pollution, and also contribute to a decrease in air quality which affects already many urban communities. We would seek to implement immediate investments in subsidized local public transport, rail transport, including high speed train to reduce the need for domestic air travel. A rolling electrification program could cover the main lines by 2030, and the entire network by 2045.
We would invest in pedestrian cities, active travel wherever possible and put public transport back under the control of the municipal fleet and subsidies for these projects, through low carbon innovation programs. These regimes would also be extended to private companies.
We would also make sure to invest in our local economies, as we understand that more capital is raised when an economy is based on local rather than global activities. We would make investment freely available for the zero carbon economy, but stop building things that depend on the use of fossil fuels to be viable. We would employ hundreds of thousands of people to insulate homes and install clean heat pump technology.
We would keep all fossil fuels in the ground and end the extraction of oil, gas or coal. A renewable energy plan would be followed within the framework of the Climate strategies defined at COP 26, which would come into force as soon as possible, but no later than August 2022.
We would fund a universal basic income, to act as a safety net during these transformations by giving more people the time to choose how they want to live and work and we would invest in a carbon tax, to stop the pollution that is causing harm. havoc with our eco-systems. We would invest in localized subsidies for public transport and end all domestic flights.
We need to create an investment strategy designed to make a car-free, fun and inexpensive life for 75% of the population possible by 2030. We need to think about investment and wholesale sourcing, and make these things affordable and accessible to people and not thinking in terms of choice of retail customers. We have to remember that the majority of UK households did not have a car until the 1960s, not so long ago we did not live in such a car dominated environment. We can live with less of these things.
We would push to grow more vegetables and fruit in the UK; and not to import fresh fruit or vegetables outside of Europe. There would be an import tax on food, graduated according to the mileage it uses; (another carbon tax?) because we have to
end the food miles we have created in our globalized world. We need a strategy to join the customs union otherwise the EU would reduce our food mileage.
Many of these steps are taken in Caroline Lucas’ climate and ecological emergency bill, which is currently before parliament. If you want to take action to help mitigate the climate catastrophe, you can challenge your MP to support it.
Nicola Day is Green Party Councilor in Peterborough, Mark Wilson is Green Party Councilor in Solihull Green and Chris WIlliams is Green Party Secretary in Charnwood.
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Image credit: Régine Fabri – Creative Commons