Last week was a momentous week for our planet.
On Monday, the World Meteorological Organisation issued a stark warning; that we are hurtling towards a precipice, and we are showing no signs of slowing down.
On Wednesday, The new European Commission President confirmed her Commissioners, including for the first time a Commissioner for the European Green Deal.
On Thursday, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to declare a Climate Emergency, and Channel 4 hosted the U.K.’s first ever televised Climate Debates, albeit without Boris Johnson.
And on Friday, young people across the world went on strike yet again for the future of our planet.
Despite this seemingly seismic shift in global attitudes towards the climate emergency, however, there seems to have been very little trickle down into our domestic politics.
With the Liberal Democrats and Conservative’s environmental ambitions set low, with net-zero by 2050 targets, and the Labour Party rowing back on its 2030 conference pledge, I’m genuinely concerned about this disconnect between public appetite for action on climate change, and political action.
Year on year, climate and weather records are being broken, and despite the Paris Climate Agreement, there have been no signs of a slowing, let alone decline in the rates of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.
Monday’s revelations about the concentrations of Greenhouse Gases in the atmosphere are deeply disturbing. When we surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time 6 years ago, we weren’t supposed to get there as quickly as we did. Scientists warned us then that when we crossed that threshold, we’d never see these levels go down again in our lifetimes. We can stop emitting more gas into the atmosphere, but the air can’t rid itself of these long term gases. They will be there for at least the next century, and the warming they will cause cannot be undone. We didn’t hear them. We’re now at 407ppm and concentrations are accelerating ever faster. We’re on a collision course and we’re not slowing down. Now is the time - we need to stop burning fossil fuels now, any delay is inexcusable.
This week in Strasbourg, the European Parliament joined together to resoundingly declare a climate emergency, but as Bas Eickhout of the Dutch Greens mentioned in his speech in Parliament this week, the people marching on the street are not calling for declarations, they are demanding action.
Across Europe, millions are uniting with the common aim of solving the climate emergency, but politicians aren’t listening, and time is running out.
Whilst Ursula Von Der Leyen, has named her Green Deal Commissioner, the deal itself is too slow, and too small, and crucially, it proposes nothing new. The net zero by 2050 deadline she sets is dangerously late, and is a death knell to people around the world already suffering worsening impacts at the hands of a drastically changing climate.
Von Der Leyen is pledging just €110bn (around £94bn) worth of annual investment in climate initiatives; a fraction of what will be needed if we hope to curb the worst of this environmental catastrophe.
Her Green Deal is stuck in an economic model that prizes competition without stopping to question constant growth; whilst poverty, instability and inequality are on the rise across Europe.
That’s why, on Wednesday, I broke ranks with the rest of the Greens / EFA group and voted against her Commission.
What we need is a genuine Green New Deal. New, because it pledges a radically different approach to combating the climate crisis.
The Green New Deal is an idea whose time has come. It meets the scale of the challenge we face, making the transition to renewable energy, investing in energy efficient jobs, greening our transport system, and creating a million new green jobs in the U.K. alone.
Not only would a Green New Deal see huge investment in renewable energy, efficiency measures would lower the bills of everyday people, properly insulate millions of houses, build 100,000 new energy-efficient homes a year, and take people out of the fuel poverty that kills across this country every year.
The Green New Deal would provide good, secure jobs and new industries. It would put trade unions at its heart to insure that people working in the obsolete fossil fuel business are offered the opportunity to retire with dignity, or retrain to work in cleaner, more prosperous sectors. Times of transition and working towards something new can be scary, disrupting the status quo, but without wholesale change, our lives, our world will be indescribably worse. We have transformed the economy and society before - we can and must do it again.
And this is why this election has to be THE Climate Election. According to the IPPC, we’ve got just ten years left in which to avert climate catastrophe. We simply cannot allow another Conservative Government to take charge.
The Guardian revealed in October that Conservative MPs are five times more likely to vote against climate action than other parties. Their leader, Boris Johnson, was recorded as being among those with the worst environmental voting record in Parliament, scoring 0% by their estimation.
And the record of this government has been truly awful. In 2015, they banned onshore wind projects, and scrapped warm home rules. In 2016, they shafted solar subsidies. In 2017 they sold off what was left of the Green Investment Bank. And in 2018, they forced fracking upon communities up and down the country.
The U.K. has absolutely ashamedly missed almost every climate target that we have set ourselves.
When the world meets in Madrid next week for COP25, the EU joins them empty handed. We have failed, even, to meet the targets of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
On Friday, young people across the world are united again to strike for the climate. How much noise do they have to make, before we wake up to the consequences of our actions? Let’s hope, for their futures at the very least, it won’t be too late.