In this week’s post I want to lay out my own personal manifesto for the upcoming General Election, an election in which I will be the Green Party candidate for West Dorset. In doing so I want to be absolutely clear – as far as I am concerned Brexit is not the main issue. It’s important, yes, but it is by no means the most important issue we face. That issue is our Climate Emergency. The breakdown of both our climate and ecological environment is an existential threat that needs to be given absolute priority. Our response to it should profoundly affect and direct all other areas of government policy.
Unlike the very considered approach being taken by Dorset Council in response to our Climate Emergency (an approach that is basically considering what is possible, what courses of action the Council can afford to take) we should first decide what actions are needed – and then worry about ‘the how’. This approach was very well expressed by Greta Thunberg speaking to the COP24 conference in Katowice, Poland: “Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis. […] And if solutions within the system are so impossible to find, maybe we should change the system itself.” In other words, if we are serious about responding to this crisis we need to forget considering what our political, economic and social structures can deliver; we should, instead, consider what needs to happen (for example the need to reduce global carbon emissions to net-zero by 2030) and then change those structures accordingly. We don’t have the luxury of contemplating our navels. We need to start acting now.
All other aspects of government then become subservient to this response. Brexit, in this regard, is being a disastrous distraction. All other things being equal we are in a much better position to respond to the climate challenge as part of the EU than outside it. It is not just the actions of our own government that are important, it’s the actions of other governments. Brazil, for example, needs to stop clearing the Amazon rain forest. The USA needs to honour the Paris agreement. Pressure needs to be put on governments like these to change their actions – pressure that is much more feasible from a block like the EU than from an isolated country like the UK. Having said that, we still need to accept the 2016 narrow vote to leave the EU. However, there was a substantial problem with this vote: whist the nature of our existing relationship with the EU was clear, the nature of a future relationship outside the EU was far from clear. So once we have a clear proposal as to what this new relationship could be it needs to be confirmed by a second referendum.
Our whole approach to economics also needs to change. Our endless pursuit of wealth, of profit, our excessive consumption, and our plundering of the Earth’s resources have led us to the brink of climate and ecological collapse. We need to change this approach to economics. We need to think in terms of human and environmental wellbeing rather growth as measures of economic success. We need to think of economics as the study of how to equitably manage our limited and precious resources rather than how to create wealth.
In this regard we need to adopt a Green New Deal. We need to start developing a whole new approach to creating jobs – green jobs. For example, the Navitus Bay wind farm project, had it gone ahead off the coast of Dorset, would not only have supplied 85% of Dorset’s electricity requirement (which, with the addition of solar would have delivered 100% renewable energy for Dorset) but would have created many new engineering jobs. I will be campaigning for this project to be resurrected. I will also be campaigning for the democratisation of our economy – for workers to be represented on all boards and for there to be a massive increase in workers cooperatives.
And with regard to housing, national planning guidance needs to change so that local planning authorities can require all new housing to have net-zero carbon emissions. Local authorities need to be encouraged to start building new council houses – houses built to the highest ecological standards and made available, as a priority, to people on their housing register. This is a policy I will be campaigning for Dorset Council to adopt. We need to start considering a warm, dry and safe home a basic human right that every government should ensure is available for all its citizens.