Bicycles, Dolphins & Strasbourg

My holiday plan for this year originally involved a couple of weeks cycling in France but after the election it got trimmed to a few days in Morecambe Bay; every moment though was worth it. Away from cities and work, cycling the fabulous Cumbrian coastal way was bliss; catching sight of dolphins off the coast at Piel Island, the icing on the cake.

These simple pleasures remind me why I am in the Green Party: to protect and preserve nature and promote the lifestyles and modes of transport that enable a less toxic future. Cycling has been a pleasure I and my family have enjoyed for years and it is such a shame to see cycling and cyclists marginalised again this week in Manchester.

There was though a fantastic turnout at ‘The Great Ancoats Street Swindle ’ where protesters gathered to demand bike lanes on this key route. Manchester City Council recently announced a £9.1 million “green transformation” to Great Ancoats Street, which, they said: “will radically improve the way pedestrians, cyclists and motorists travel”. However, the scheme will take out the existing cycle lanes without replacing them. There is a petition that puts the case well:

https://www.change.org/p/manchester-city-council-install-bike-lanes-on-great-ancoats-street-manchester

Coming up this week is an important trip to Strasbourg.

Following last month’s elections, the new session of the European Parliament kicks off on Tuesday, with MEPs meeting in Strasbourg for its ninth term. For me, it’s another ‘first’ and I’m genuinely looking forward to discovering how the processes work and what we can achieve with them. I’ll keep you posted where possible!

The European Parliament’s new term starts on July 2, but negotiations over political groupings have been underway since the end of last month. Now though it’s time to put MEPs into key roles and all the EU’s top positions are being voted on. According to the information:

“One of the big things to keep an eye on is who will replace Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission. The new European Commission will take office in November. EU leaders will attempt to pick a candidate, taking account of last month’s results, before MEPs cast their vote. Given the Commission proposes and enforces EU law, manages policies, negotiates international agreements and allocates funding, this is a crucial role.”

With the shift in the balance of power that came with the elections, the Greens as one of the four main blocks have been in talks throughout the preceding weeks. With considerably more power than in previous Parliaments, we aim and hope to use this position to prioritise action on climate and biodiversity, social justice, employment, poverty and transparency. As the democratic process unfolds, I’ll be curious to see how it compares to the politics here in the UK.

Meanwhile this week…

Good:

A good result for Blackpool after Garry Richardson of Blackpool & Fylde Green Party started a petition that eventuated in this:

“Councillors unanimously backed moves to ensure the authority does everything it can to tackle global warming including to make “clear its fundamental opposition to the practice of fracking.”

More here.

Bad:

Three anti-fracking campaigners from the Preston New Road Rolling Roadside Protest faced charges of Contempt of Court this week; accused of breaching an injunction at the site. The court found them guilty but has deferred sentencing until after a challenge to the injunction is heard.

The future will celebrate the protesters’ efforts and wonder what was driving government policy and Cuadrilla’s choices in this age of climate emergency. It will also surely learn the lesson that peaceful protest is a crucial safety valve in our societies, a way of the people pointing out to the government when they are getting decisions wrong and refusing to acknowledge their error.

Where hope lies:

There’s a fantastic interview out this week between two amazing young women, well worth your time. Here’s an excerpt followed by the link:

‘Hope is not something that you have. Hope is something that you create, with your actions.’

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

“I went to Standing Rock, in the Dakotas, to fight against a fracking pipeline. It seemed impossible at the time. It was just normal people, showing up, just standing on the land to prevent this pipeline from going through. And it made me feel extremely powerful, even though we had nothing, materially – just the act of standing up to some of the most powerful corporations in the world. From there I learned that hope is not something that you have. Hope is something that you create, with your actions. Hope is something you have to manifest into the world, and once one person has hope, it can be contagious. Other people start acting in a way that has more hope.”

Greta Thunberg:

Most of us know that this is going to affect us in our lifetimes – it’s not just something that might happen in the future. It’s already here and it’s going to get worse, and many of us understand that this is going to make our lives much worse. And also that as young people, we aren’t as used to the system. We don’t say, “It’s always been like this, we can’t change anything.” ..it always reminds me a lot of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Everyone believes in this lie, that only a child dares to question.”

 

Onwards 💚

Pride, Misdeeds & Anniversaries

It’s been a very full week again, although thankfully the coming one is looking a lot less action-packed and offers time to review and plan. From the relief of getting a good team of staff to support me with my MEP tasks in place, to reflecting back to the awful ‘misdeeds’ in the Brexit vote, and later the joy of Lancaster Pride this weekend, it’s been a week of seeing the positives and acting on the negatives.

Pride

Back home, Lancaster Pride did Lancaster proud this week in Dalton Square. ‘Unity in diversity’ is a good way to sum it up. Loved meeting the Typhoons RUFC Lancashire’s first and only inclusive rugby team (who practice at Preston Grasshoppers RFC). Straight or gay, any ability, shape, or size they say – everyone welcome as long as you’ve got the right attitude to rugby… and they certainly do! The event was fabulous and fun.

Brexit

Today is the 3rd anniversary of the Referendum that gave us ‘Brexit’; seems like yesterday and an eternity all at once. Our co-leaders of Green Party of England and Wales reflected on what’s happened since: the key critical social and environmental issues that have not been tackled, and two million young voters have been denied a say in their futures.

Siân Berry said:

“Our politics has become entangled in what has been rightly described as Brexit chaos over the past three years. We could, and should, have been dealing with the fast-rising issues of poverty and homelessness, the collapse of bus services and the causes of the filthy air we breathe, the state of our nature-deprived countryside and the struggles of our small farmers to survive. Instead we have been bogged down in party in-fighting, fact-free debates about non-existent Brexit options and arcane struggles over parliamentary procedures.”

Jonathan Bartley added:

“More than two million young people have become voters since the 2016 referendum. Well over another million are aged 16 and 17, seeing society wrestling with issues that will have a huge impact on their futures. That’s more than 3 million people who deserve a say on their own future through the democratic option of the People’s Vote. Parliament has shown itself to be unable to find a way forward. The answer is democracy, and giving those young people the option to have their say.”

EU Parliament

In Brussels, I was pleased to sign a letter calling for an investigation into Brexit electoral ‘misdeeds’ that have come to light. It is a cross-party initiative, co-led by fellow Green, Molly Scott Cato MEP. Molly rightly says: “Brexit is a crime scene, yet our efforts to ensure the perpetrators face justice using the agencies available in the UK…have so far failed.”

Together, we 38 UK MEPs are calling on a high-level international legal commission to intervene over ‘declining democratic standards’ in the UK, asking the commission to investigate: breaches of spending rules and data-protection laws; the exclusion of non-UK EU citizens residing in the UK from voting during the 2016 referendum; the more recent disenfranchisement of UK citizens resident abroad, and EU citizens resident in the UK from the European elections this year.

There’s a lot more to this and an awful lot more to come. Alongside all this, MPs are preparing to take the Met police to court, after the force has failed to investigate alleged offences by Brexit campaigners for nearly a year. Separately, the Brexit Party has been told by the Electoral Commission to check its donations and tighten up its processes, after a loophole was revealed that could allow foreign donations to the party.

Meanwhile, this week:

Good:

The Green Party signed up to support the Manchester Declaration for a Right to Repair worldwide. It’s a call by independent repair businesses and citizens who are frustrated with the early obsolescence of most of today’s products. They ask UK legislators and decision-makers at all levels, as well as product manufacturers and designers, to stand with us for our Right to Repair, by making repairs more accessible and affordable, and ensuring that we adopt product standards making products better supported, well documented and easier to repair by design.

Siân Berry said: “We are committing to using our political influence at local, national and EU level to trigger the switch to a circular economy, and fight for our right to repair.”

Here’s a link to further information about the project.

Bad:

Just 0.34% of the UK”s population will now decide who the next PM is to be. Many of us lament the system that allows this to happen. Can we do anything to change this? Not right now but the fight for fairer voting and more representative democracy is at the core of the Green Party policies and we will not stop fighting for them.

Where hope lies:

Students, young people and school pupils rose again on Friday for another YouthStrike4Climate march and here in the North West, despite some Chorley students being told they cannot now go to their School Prom because they participated in the Strike, they participated in the Strike, they are not deterred. And that gives me inspiration.

Onwards 💚

What part of ‘climate catastrophe’​ isn’t getting through?

For those who live here in the North West of England and certainly many beyond, we are very much aware of the issue of fracking. Extracting shale gas by unconventional techniques like fracking, introduces hazards, toxins, pollution and risk of harm to the environment, nature, wildlife and people of the community.

I have strongly and actively opposed this industry and took part in non-violent direct action during the ongoing protests at the Preston New Road Rolling Roadside Protest (between Preston and Blackpool) where fracking firm Cuadrilla has a site.

Yesterday it was made clear that despite the last attempts to frack being prematurely brought to an end after causing 57 seismic events, Cuadrilla has applied to carry out fracking again on a second well. The community opposing this is devastated. They’ve already been active in protest at this site daily since 4th January 2017 and had thought there was a chance it was over. Sadly not.

I will continue to work both here and in Europe to ensure we bring a halt to the extraction of all fossil fuels and hope you can get involved wherever you are in the fight to protect our precious environment.

Further details on the planning application can be found here.

 

Gina

Scarborough to Penrith via Brussels

An incredibly varied week has come to an end. It’s been a week where I’ve noted the stark contrast between the work I’m doing in Europe and the headlines here at home.

The one thread that connected my week was the genuine intent of the people I’ve had the privilege to be with; from the Greens driving policies at Conference in Scarborough last weekend, to European Green MEP colleagues seeking to find consensus in Brussels, to the commitment of Green Party members and campaigners in Penrith. People who just keep going, accepting that it’s not easy to fight for the high level change and justice that are so desperately needed, and who keep showing up and doing the work needed.

I’m still finding my feet and waking up checking ‘where I am today’! These are busy but productive days and it was good to find space for team building. A meeting between us seven UK Green MEPs who are now officially a delegation – it was the first time we had actually been in one room together! And back home to develop my own team for the future. As a Councillor there are no allowances for support staff but as an MEP, it’s essential to have staff to fulfil the role. The recruitment process underway is very time-consuming: it’s a delight to have such good quality applications and I look forward to having contracts signed soon.

In Brussels discussions in our Green group centred around the negotiation processes that have now started with the other big blocs in the Parliament. We’re seeking for key Green policies to be incorporated into the programme for the next five years of the Parliament, before our support for the next mandate is provided. The balance of power has shifted from the S&D (sort of Labour types) and EPP (sort of Conservative types but not including the British Tories as they are in a grouping yet further to the right.) These two blocs have until now had a majority in the Parliament. The Green /EFA group is not going to squander the opportunity to try to get major concessions for climate, environmental, social and economic justice in this new term.

Back in the UK, I met with Jaki Bell of Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAFS), to hear about the projects they lead for a transition to a zero carbon future. From the Cumbria Green Build Festival to thermal imaging services for individual householders to see where homes are losing heat and how to tackle energy efficiency, CAFS is the leading non-government organisation in Cumbria tackling energy efficiency issues in the built environment. The work they’re doing is inspiring and because they’re not funded by government, they have to look for funding for every single project.

Jaki highlighted some of the biggest barriers to tackling this crucial issue of reducing the energy we use in heating and lighting our homes. This alone consumes totals 16% of our total carbon budget. Improvements we make in the built environment create great wins all round; tackling fuel poverty, tackling energy costs and creating jobs. One of the biggest barriers right now is the fact that the government has cut the feed-in tariff and shows no signs of support for solar installation in domestic and community buildings.

At the end of the day and nearer home, I caught up with Lancaster’s Global Link’s Refugee Week event; a beautiful circular walk from Carnforth, encompassing some of beautiful Lancashire/Cumbria border landscapes which ended with a shared meal and stories of flight and detention. I was humbled to be alongside refugees, asylum seekers, residents and support organisations who are calling for an end to indefinite detention for asylum seekers. The UK is the only country in Europe that detains people indefinitely. Surely this is not a mark of a civilised society and it’s time this practice came to an end. On this issue I am absolutely sure that the British people want the Government to show more compassion and humanity.

Meanwhile this week

Good:

Pope Francis met the world’s biggest multinational oil companies in the Vatican on Friday to: ‘impress upon them the urgency and scale of the challenge, and their central role in tackling the emissions crisis’. He declared a global “climate emergency”, warning of the dangers of global heating and that a failure to act urgently to reduce greenhouse gases would be “a brutal act of injustice toward the poor and future generations”.

Link here.

Bad:

Worryingly here in the UK (in complete contrast to the surge in Green votes and Green MEPs to the EU Parliament), the fight to become Prime Minister is clearly not based on the skills, honesty, integrity or intent of the candidates. This piece by Nick Cohen in today’s Guardian puts it very plainly:

Link here.

Where hope lies:

There was a lovely story out this week about students in Swinton under the headline:

Swinton Academy students build eco-friendly greenhouse using 1,500 plastic bottle as they tackle climate change.

And there are bigger issues at stake. The Youth are not sitting still, stalling or waffling around the key issue in their lives. This Friday will see another Youth Strike 4 Climate march and I’d urge you to find one near you to attend in support. I look forward to joining Lancaster’s youth strike group on Friday. I will have been to Brussels and back again by then!

Onwards 💚

Gina