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
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”.
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:
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!