A European Green Deal

The European Commission has finally, and historically, placed the European Green Deal as a core strategy on their 2019-2024 political guidelines. Ursula von Der Leyen, the new Commission President, should be commended for finally putting forward as a key priority the foundations of a plan to tackle climate change. We, of course, were not expecting a detailed plan after two weeks in office – although such a plan is direly needed. Now is the time to take this outline of a green deal and make it into a credible and tangible reality.

From a European Greens/EFA perspective, the group’s key overall messages will be the major criteria against which the group are going to evaluate the Commission’s proposals:

  1. The objectives of the Green Deal must not only be in line with the 1.5°C global warming target; it must be about respecting all planetary boundaries;
  2. The Green Deal must ensure policy coherence. There should be climate/biodiversity/resource-proofing of all policies, including with the CAP and trade policies;
  3. Climate action must go hand-in-hand with the reduction of inequalities;
  4. GND needs a green financial system, rather than just some greening of parts of finance.

The line of thinking is the right one, although of course, these points are just a general thematic overview that should underwrite our approach to the Green Deal. The practical reality must ensure our transition to a more sustainable society with some concrete measures that will rapidly propel us to a zero-carbon, nature-friendly economy, create thousands of jobs, improve health and tackle inequality.

These ideas were included in my report The Green New Deal in the North West, and in concrete terms, we identified areas where a Green New Deal can force much-needed change. The report addresses five key areas:

  1. Renewable energy supply
  2. Energy-efficient buildings
  3. Sustainable transport
  4. A zero-carbon, circular economy
  5. Land use, food and biodiversity

So how do we help the European Commission maintain a focus on these areas? We need to provide tangible solutions with frameworks like The Green New Deal in the North West, that prioritise human and environmental sustainability at the local level, and make them a success story. This model can be replicated on the international stage in institutions like the EU to give our solutions the widest reach.

There is no doubt that some issues will require local solutions, and others will need coordinated efforts with our European partners. The difficulty lies in finding the right balance between local, bottom-up solutions and international standards that need to be regulated for the greater good.

In the EU, energy production and use, including the energy used in transport, account for some 80 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. The five key areas covered in my report would allow us to tackle the bulk of emissions in the EU, as well as in North West England.

Let’s take energy, for example. We urgently need a rapid transition to a smart, zero-carbon energy system and halt all future fossil fuel developments. It is also a reality that many communities rely on the jobs provided by the energy sector. The focus in the Green Deal should be on investing in these people, rather than leaving them behind, and give them the opportunity to re-train in green industries or work in environmental restoration schemes – a policy already implemented by the Spanish government in 2018.

By keeping the focus on people, policies such as improving the energy efficiency of building stock can be a strong way of tackling the climate emergency, while at the same time delivering social justice for those who are affected by fuel poverty. Furthermore, improving energy efficiency can help our public institutions make substantial financial savings as well as in the case of hospitals, speed up patient recovery times. These kinds of societal changes will benefit our communities and leave no one behind.

Policies to be implemented at the EU level, are also needed.

The most important of which is the reform of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Firstly, decreasing the number of free allowances in the ETS and secondly, increase the pace of removing emission allowances from the system (which will lead to a higher price on emissions and a faster decrease in emissions).

Secondly, we need to introduce a Border Carbon Adjustment mechanism (in other words, a carbon border tariff) to avoid carbon leakages with companies who manage to avoid climate regulation and paying for their emissions.

And lastly, introducing a kerosene tax. Airlines should pay energy and fuel taxes like everyone else, and we have to tackle airline emissions, a sector where emissions are still growing significantly.

The Green Deal needs to not aim only at ‘hard policies’ that incentivise the rollout of renewable energy systems and increase the cost of emissions. We also need ‘soft policies’ that change the way we consume, live and travel without putting the responsibility of those changes on individuals – particularly the poorest. For example, making it easy for people to choose public transport over their car, expanding cycling infrastructure to make cycling less dangerous and more accessible. In other words, policies should also aim to encourage new, positive types of behaviour.

That is where we will be able to test the real ambition of political leaders.

Going forward as Greens, we should take a demanding but constructive approach. At this early stage, simply criticising the Commission for not being bold or concrete enough will prove to be counterproductive. We need to ensure that a firm but collaborative approach is what will get the key Greens/EFA demands for the European Green Deal on the table.

These are baby steps, but adequate ones if we want to act and save the future of young people and the planet.

 

Peace, Pause & Paths forward

In the current state of politics, so much seems to happen on all fronts, every single week.

It was only last week on the 31st of October that I was able to celebrate with my staff team, UK Green MEPs and of course many more communities who have fought hard for a better solution to Brexit – that we are still in the European Union and I am delighted I can continue the good work as part of the green group in the European Parliament.

The announcement of the fracking moratorium on Saturday was a brilliant start to this week, and I have just announced that I’m running as the Green parliamentary candidate for Fylde constituency in the upcoming general election. The Green Party will prioritise environmental and social justice as always and I look forward to campaigning on issues close to my heart. Last week in the UK, we launched The Green New Deal for the North West: a report I’ve been working on since being elected as the MEP for the North West. I am pleased we are able to give some concrete, practical, real-world examples of what needs to be rolled out. There is much focus now on the concept of the Green New Deal from other parties, as well as in Europe.

Moratorium on Fracking

Some of the most welcome news for quite a while came last weekend. The government has finally accepted the position that the Green Party and anti-fracking protestors have had from the outset: there is no such thing as safe fracking.

Principally, there is no level of regulation that is capable of assuring the safety of this industry. More critically, there is no place for a new fossil fuel in a climate emergency, when all the evidence points to the need to move swiftly to a zero-carbon energy supply.

Local people will be hugely relieved following years of havoc this industry has wreaked upon their communities, and more than a few people will rest easier at night knowing that the risk of seismic tremors has gone.

This decision will give cheer to young people, climate strikers and those who understand the need to move to clean, green and cheap renewables, and I think this will be an occasion of real celebration for the hundreds of thousands of people have been involved in the anti-fracking campaign, who have helped to highlight the costs and risks associated with hydraulic fracturing.

It was clear from the start that there is no place for fracking in a 21st-century energy plan. All that remains now is for the moratorium to become a complete ban.

Green New Deal for the North West

The Green Party’s vision for industry was conceived long before it became as urgent as it is today and remains the best route out of the mess our environment, society and climate are in. The Green New Deal is a global solution that takes local, national and regional action to achieve its aims

In what was originally due to be my last week in office, last week I was proud to launch a report from my office on The Green New Deal (GND) in the North West. The report aims to demonstrate how the GND can do more than just stabilise the climate emergency: it can bring huge benefits to the region, providing meaningful and skilled jobs as well as tackling social exclusion.

Our report looks at future green energy supply, industry, sustainable transport, energy-efficient buildings, and food and land use. In every sector, we found examples of good practice which can be scaled up and rolled out. It’s all do-able and can be up and running quickly (and it needs to be).

Although the industrial sector will have to transition from current fossil fuels use to circular, zero-waste business models, it will be nothing like the damaging de-industrialisation of the past; a Green New Deal offers new opportunities to revitalise our manufacturing communities by shifting to new, greener products and services, produced with green energy.

At the launch event last week, it was great to have such excellent speakers – one for each of the different sections providing real-world examples of good practice in action. And we had such excellent feedback from those attending that we may just have to launch it all over again with a new audience!

You can download the report here.

Lancaster Peace Pole

I was delighted to be at the launch of Lancaster’s Peace Pole at the end last week, where the Lancaster Quakers together with schools and the local community held a 30-minute Dedication Ceremony. Since the Second World War, over 200,000 Peace Poles have been erected by many nations bearing the words “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in different languages. In Lancaster, the languages are English, Arabic, Japanese and Gujurati.

Meanwhile this week…

Good

This week marks 30 years since the Berlin Wall came down and the world rejoiced. It was a pivotal moment for freedom and democracy in Europe.

Having lived in Germany only five years previous to this, I was as amazed at that achievement as anyone – for many years no one has thought that such a change could ever happen.

Bad

Surely it’s not a good sign that in the year that the climate emergency became one of the most pressing issues in the political debate, the Conservatives have employed a lobbyist who works for pro-fracking agencies to write their election manifesto?

Where hope lies

There is an election on 12th December 2019 and there is every chance that on 13th December, we will wake up to a different future. Please vote for it to be a green one.

Onwards