New Year, Green Projects & EU Citizens

Happy New Year greetings to everyone. I won’t pretend that it’s not a little difficult to be happy about the UK leaving the EU at the end of this month or the general state of our politics. More another time about the dire need for proportional representation to ensure a fairer democracy, something which I will be looking to campaign on. For now though, I am coming to the end of what has been a wonderful and productive experience as Green MEP for the North West. However, I have a lot to complete both in the NW region and in EU Parliament – with the help of my fantastic staff, as we ensure we maximise our impact before the end of January and try to leave a positive legacy.

Looking Ahead

Transport

We will launch our detailed report on sustainable and active transport in the North West on Friday 24 January in Lancaster. This report follows up on the Green New Deal in the North West report, with more detail about the challenges and mechanisms for ensuring investment in transforming our public and active transport systems in the region.

Research and Innovation

The future of research and innovation funding…particularly as we will now no longer be a full member of the Horizon Europe research funding programme within the EU.

We have a report coming out imminently on this and I will also be following this up with an event in the European Parliament on Wednesday 22 January about the importance of research and innovation in meeting our climate targets and the policies described in the European Green Deal – the European commission’s first attempt to introduce such a concept (good news). With a range of policies across the board, as Greens we are not totally convinced that the proposals are deep enough or bold enough.

The Occupied Palestinian Territories

During my last week, not only will I finally publish a report on the occupied Palestinian territories using some of the information I gathered during my visit there in August and the numerous initiatives within the European Parliament, I will also be hosting an event in the Parliament looking at how trade in goods from the occupied Palestinian territories can be properly regulated according to the principles of international law.

The Green New Deal Presentation at Steady State Manchester

Just three days after the election, one of my MEP office team members, Laurence Adams, who was the key researcher behind our Green New Deal for the North West report spoke at a ‘Green New Deals and Greater Manchester’ event hosted by Steady State Manchester, a group working to promote alternative approaches to economic development that respects planetary limits.

Laurence gave a short presentation of our report, outlining what the challenges are in our region and how a Green New Deal of the kind put forward by the Green Party could be transformational. In particular, we made the point that we must work hard to retain ownership of the principles of a ‘Green New Deal’, which are at risk of becoming watered-down. It is fundamental to the Greens’ model that any Green New Deal worthy of the term must meet the six key principles we set out in our report:

-Recognising the Emergency
-Making a Fair Contribution
-Ensuring a Just Transition
-Investing Public Money for Public Goods
-Localising Democracy
-Rethinking Measures of Success.

 A local member of Labour for a Green New Deal was also due to attend and put forward Labour’s position, but after the dire election result, was still too crestfallen to attend. 

EU Citizenship

As the true impacts of Brexit unfold, one bad news story at a time, it is important that we pay close attention to what’s being offered. We’ve had much correspondence about the issue of ‘Associate EU Citizenship’ and my fellow MEP, Ellie Chowns has put together the following important information:

We continue to believe that the UK is best placed within the EU in terms of our economic interests, strong environmental and social standards and, of course, the benefits of freedom of movement. The proposal of associate EU citizenship is, therefore, at first glance, an undeniably attractive proposal for those of us who wish to stay a part of the European project and retain the rights we have long enjoyed as its citizens.

Associate citizenship isn’t a formal proposal. Charles Goerens, a Luxembourgish MEP, first proposed this amendment to a report on possible future changes to the EU treaties by the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) in the European Parliament. This was not a legislative report and could not create the status of associate citizenship by itself, and the proposal was ultimately withdrawn prior to the vote with Mr Goerens issuing this explanation on social media.

So far it has been agreed amongst legal experts that to achieve associate citizenship for the UK would require a treaty amendment agreed to by all remaining 27 EU member countries, and then ratified by their national parliaments or by referendum. Unfortunately, this would take a long period of time and is unlikely to happen, and while we support freedom of movement, this right must be reciprocal and enshrined for both Britons and Europeans. In this respect, associate citizenship would discriminate against Europeans.

My Greens/EFA colleague, Jill Evans, commissioned researchers at Swansea University to explore this associate citizenship question and the House of Commons library published legal opinions on EU citizenship that is online here.

Despite the strict legal issues, remaining open to the idea of an associate citizenship, if anything, sends a clear message to the UK government that citizens want to be empowered and remain part of the EU.

I’m keeping a watching eye on this – among all the other Brexit-related developments!

Here’s a link to the GreenWave Voxbox, where we discuss citizen rights post-Brexit with other MEPs.

Meanwhile this week

Good

It is good to see this progressing and to have to opportunity to sign the declaration before my role here ends:

“The Intergroup on Welfare and Conservation of Animals launched DECLARATION ON A TRANSITION TO NON-ANIMAL SCIENCE calling on the EU Commission to establish a concrete strategy to phase out the use of animals in areas of research, education and testing.”

With more than 200,000 animals used each year in the EU for the primary purpose of education and training, this initiative will have a huge impact for good.

The link to the declaration can be found here.

Bad

You couldn’t make it up, but then again:

“Counter-terrorism police placed the non-violent group Extinction Rebellion (XR) on a list of extremist ideologies that should be reported to the authorities running the Prevent programme, which aims to catch those at risk of committing atrocities.

“XR featured alongside threats to national security such as neo-Nazi terrorism and a pro-terrorist Islamist group. The guide, aimed at police officers, government organisations and teachers who by law have to report concerns about radicalisation, was dated last November.”

This article, discovered by The Guardian, is dark and threatening to those who are simply campaigning to protect the life, nature and the environment and I am certain will be challenged. I agree with my colleague Molly Scott Cato MEP who said this is:

“A sign of a state out of control and failing democratic standards.”

Where hope lies

Localism!

I am being asked a lot about what I will do after the end of January.

I have of course kept both of my local councillor roles on at Lancaster City and Lancashire County Council during the last seven months, and will return to them with renewed determination (and I believe, support) to ensure local action by our councils on the climate emergency. As the MEP office, we will be producing a short report on good practice so far in the regions – and I have no doubt that people support local low and zero-carbon initiatives which can also transform our local economies, adding to the quality of daily life. Better public transport and support for active travel, more local services, expanding and promoting biodiversity in our public green spaces and supporting community initiatives just as a start.

I am sure many of us will be turning to the well established Green truism for creating a better future: “Think Globally, Act Locally.”

But first, this coming week will be my last visit to Strasbourg and the formal plenary of the Parliament and there is lots on the agenda I will be participating in.

Onwards

 

UK Green MEPs Welcome Extinction Rebellion Protests

Yesterday, Extinction Rebellion kicked off two weeks of global demonstrations, demanding world leaders act now to tackle climate breakdown. The UK’s Green MEPs have welcomed the protests in a joint statement: [1]

“Our planet is on the brink of a climate catastrophe. At this critical moment in history, it’s truly inspiring to see so many people take to the streets and demand our government acts now.

“Our Prime Minister wants to treat protestors like criminals, yet he’s happy to wine and dine with the bosses of the corporations destroying our environment.

“It’s clear which is the right side of history. We urge the UK Government to open its eyes, face facts, and act now to safeguard all of our futures.”

Gina Dowding, Green MEP for the North West said:

“The sheer number of people involved in the Extinction Rebellion protests is heartening and I wholly support their efforts. I hope to stand with Rebels next week during a conference trip to London, and show solidarity with their mission to make the climate emergency one that the UK government acts upon with urgency.

“In the North West, we have been battling the climate-wrecking fracking industry, as they have tried and failed to frack in Lancashire. The industry has been so very deceptive when it comes to promoting natural gas as a climate solution. It is not a ‘bridge fuel’ nor a time to use fracking as a transition – fracking is another fossil fuel extraction technique, responsible for increased global methane emissions.

“The time to move to renewable energy is now and the UK government must drop support for dirty fossil fuels and back renewable energy and a Green New Deal.”

ENDS

 

[1]. Signed by: Scott Ainslie (London), Ellie Chowns (West Midlands), Molly Scott Cato (South West England and Gibraltar), Gina Dowding (North West England), Magid Magid (Yorkshire and the Humber), Alexandra Phillips (South East England) and Catherine Rowett (East of England).