UK Greens join the Global Climate Strike

Rosie Rawle speech at Oxford climate strikes
Image credit: Ellen Lees

Friday 20 September saw the school climate strikes transform into a global general strike. Over 4 million people took part in the strikes and demonstrations across the world.

Among those to join the strikes were prominent members of the UK’s Green Parties.

Green MEP for the South East of England Alex Phillips spoke at the Brighton strike rally and praised the “leadership” of the climate strikers:

Phillips’ fellow MEP Catherine Rowett attended the strike rally in Cambridge. In advance of the strike, Rowett said:

The school strikes have been transformative in putting climate change at the top of the agenda, where it needs to be. Children have been leading the way, but Governments are still not showing the courage to adequately address the climate emergency fast enough. Now, more than ever, we need adults to join the strikes and raise the pressure for emergency action.

Green MP Caroline Lucas also supported the strikes, and described the failure to tackle climate change “the greatest moral failure of our times”:

Green MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber Magid Magid joined strikers in Sheffield. He told the i  that he was “pissed off” about the lack of action on climate change:

I’m striking along with millions of others from across the world because not only am I pissed off, to put it lightly, with the lack of action from our Government to save our planet, but to also show solidarity to all those suffering from the impacts of climate change.

Co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales Sian Berry threw her support behind the strike and told the Camden New Journal:

We have seen dramatic action from young people. People are actually going on strike about this and this is a reflection of the importance of the issue because there are no jobs on a dead planet, but there are lots of jobs in fixing this problem.

In Edinburgh, the Scottish Green Party’s parliamentary co-convener Alison Johnstone described her pride for young people leading the climate strike movement:

I’m so proud of Scotland’s young people, gathering here at parliament to give a very clear message – action on climate now.

And Green Party in Northern Ireland leader Clare Bailey heaped praise on the school children at the front of the movement:

These young people will suffer the greatest effects of climate breakdown and should be rewarded for striking, not punished for it.

They are demanding action on climate action and we’re urging schools to support them on taking a stand.

It wasn’t just Green politicians joining the strikes though. The Green Party of England and Wales staff team were also participating in the strike. As such, the Young Greens Executive Committee took over the party’s social media for the day:

And during the day, Young Greens co-chair Rosie Rawle spoke at the Oxford strike rally. In her speech, she accused governments of “sticking their fingers in their ears” when it comes to climate change:

Caroline Lucas launches Green New Deal bill

Caroline Lucas
Image credit: Creative Commons: GPEW

The global climate strike wasn’t the only landmark development in the battle for climate justice this week. On the same day, Green MP Caroline Lucas launched a new bill for a Green New Deal alongside Labour’s Clive Lewis.

The bill calls for:

  • The establishment of a Green New Deal commission to develop a strategy for implementing a Green New Deal, promoting the Green New Deal through every branch of government and advising the government on implementation of Green New Deal policies. People from a range of backgrounds including civil society and trade unions would make up the commission.
  • The creation of a National Investment Bank, responsible for providing investment for decarbonisation.

  • Investment in new zero carbon affordable housing, improving energy efficiency of buildings and investment in renewable energy.
  • Promotion of public, municipal and co-operative forms of ownership of the economy.
  • Guarantees that workers are paid a living wage, and providing training and grants to workers and communities effected by the transition to a zero carbon economy.
  • A shift in international investment away from fossil fuels and towards renewable technologies.

Writing in the Guardian to launch the bill, Lucas said:

Our country needs investment and a worker-led just transition. Too many areas have been all but abandoned by Westminster over the past 30 years: industries shut down with nothing to replace the jobs lost; people ignored and disempowered.

In the article, she argued for a shift in the way our economy is managed and measured:

First, we need to fundamentally change the way our economy is managed, so that democratically elected governments – not the whims of the market – set our future direction.

She continued:

It also means moving away from the pursuit of growth as the primary economic objective. Instead, we should prioritise health and wellbeing, reducing inequality and – crucially – tackling the climate emergency.

Lewis joined her in calling for an economic overhaul. According to the Independent, on the publication of the bill, Lewis said:

Our demands are quite clear and quite simple: we want a Green New Deal that will radically change how our economy works and for whom.

It will mean the democratisation of our economy on a scale not seen since 1945 but done for the twenty-first century, so that it empowers people and communities not ever more powerful, unresponsive bureaucracies.

The rapacious economic system, driven by rampant inequality, that has dominated these past 40 years and lead us to the brink of catastrophe, must now make way for a political economy based on the needs of people and planet first.

Ross Greer wins battle against Flamingo Land development

Ross Greer
Image credit: YouTube screengrab

The ongoing war between the Scottish public and Flamingo Land turned a corner this week. After over 55,000 objections were lodged against its proposed Loch Lomond development – coordinated by Green MSP Ross Greer – Flamingo Land withdrew its planning application. Opposition to the proposed development stemmed from the potential environmental impacts, as well as the effect such a development would have on the famous Loch Lomond landscape.

Greer welcomed the withdrawal of the “most unpopular planning application in Scottish history”. According to Common Space, he said:

Flamingo Land’s environmentally destructive proposal was the most unpopular planning application in Scottish history. More than 57,000 people objected including many in the local community who saw through the spin. Now, following our historic campaign and the National Park’s own planning officers recommending a rejection, the developers have, for now, withdrawn their ridiculous plans.

However, Greer warned this is just the first step in the campaign. He argued that the war against the Flamingo Land development will continue:

This is likely a transparent attempt to resubmit with a few small changes, cancelling the near sixty thousand objections lodged to the current proposals. If they think such a cynical ploy will stop our community campaign, they have another thing coming. We will not stop until we have saved Loch Lomond from Flamingo Land’s greed.

Green Party selects General Election candidate for Bristol West

With a General Election still looming on the horizon, local Green Parties continue to select their parliamentary candidates. This week, one of the most important selections took place.

Bristol Green Party selected its candidate for the Bristol West constituency. Bristol West was a key target seat for the party in 2015 and 2017. The Greens came second in 2015, winning over 26,000 votes.

Carla Denyer will now fight the next election for the Greens. Denyer has been a councillor on Bristol City Council since 2015. Her time on the council has been marked by her passing of the first local government climate emergency motion in Europe.

Speaking on her selection, Denyer said:

We’re facing a joint crisis for our climate and for our democracy, but the Greens have the ideas and the political will to push for progressive solutions. I’m hopeful and proud to have been chosen to fight this election for the Green Party. We speak with one voice in saying ‘Yes to Europe and No to climate chaos.’

Huntingdonshire Green Party also selected their parliamentary candidate this week. Daniel Laycock was chosen to fight the election for the Greens in Huntingdon. Upon his selection, Laycock made a public pledge to defend the NHS from a trade deal with the USA:

The Greens won their highest share of the vote in Huntingdon in 2015, when they received 3.9% of the vote.

Caroline Russell calls for publicly owned energy for London

Caroline Russell
Image credit: Creative Commons: Joe Dunckley

This week, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced plans for a London based energy company. The company is intended to increase London’s renewable energy consumption, and reduce bills.

But Khan faced criticism from Green London Assembly member Caroline Russell. She hit out at the mayor for partnering with the private sector. She instead called for the establishment of a publicly owned energy company.

Speaking to Bright Green, Russell said:

I had almost given up on the Mayor creating an energy company. I’ve argued with him to set up a fully-licensed company – which means wholly owned by London – to get the best benefits for Londoners.

The Mayor seems cautious that there will be any profits to be reinvested, but a company owned and run by the Mayor would be able to support investment in green technologies and create green jobs. While this package looks good, it remains to be seen if it can support investment of this kind.

The Mayor should also be seriously looking at cleaner, greener energy for TfL which currently uses only 0.01% of its energy from renewables.

John Finnie supports sleeper train strike action

John Finnie Green Party MSP
Image credit: YouTube screengrab

This week the RMT confirmed its members working on the Caledonian Sleeper trains plan to take strike action. Their strike is over working conditions established by the sleeper trains’ private operator Serco.

Green MSP and Scottish Green Party transport spokesperson John Finnie is among those who has come out to support the strike. Finnie described Serco as “entirely disreputable”, and called on the Scottish government to end its franchise on the railway:

Serco is an entirely disreputable company that has a long record of mismanaging public services.

I have repeatedly raised concerns about the management of the Caledonian Sleeper franchise and fully support the RMT’s decision to take industrial action. The health and well-being of staff must come first, and it’s clear this isn’t a priority for Serco.

The Scottish Government should strip Serco of the Sleeper franchise for its dismal performance, and stop doing business with this predatory company.

Ministers are due to award the contract for the Northern Isles Ferry Services in the coming weeks. I’m calling on the Transport Secretary to rule out giving another important contract to Serco.