As the Green Party conferences draws to a close, the party revealed two climate change campaigns aimed at increasing the UK’s ambitions to tackle greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.
Referring to the international climate negotiations in Bonn next month, party co-leader Caroline Lucas slammed as “imperialistic” the way in which poorer countries were urged to meet emission reduction targets while not being given the necessary funds to “leap frog the dirty years that we went through”.
“These poor countries have contributed least to the climate problem and they are going to be hit the hardest by it,” she said. “Now we need to put our money where our mouth is.”
With COP23 anticipated to focus on the issue of climate finance, the UK government delegation to the climate talks will no doubt come under scrutiny over its position on the topic.
Also, in a conference plenary meeting, hundreds of party members voted for a new climate change policy in which they pledged to reduce the country’s emission to zero by 2030 and “drive change throughout society” with “a carbon tax and dividend, publicity campaigns and possible carbon rationing”.
For one party member, this was an encouraging step forward which she believes will spur discussions within the party about how carbon rationing can be achieved.
Speaking at a fringe event, Miriam Kennet “begged” the party to take bolder and more ambitious action to stop what she described as the “catastrophic” impacts of climate change the world witnessed this year, referring to devastating hurricanes in the US and the Caribbean and major flooding events in South Asia and in Nigeria.
“This stuff is going on now. I beg you, can we up our game?” she asked a group of dozens of party members. She told the audience that so-called carbon rationing would mean a change in lifestyle but added, “I think the will is there and the public would be ready to do it because people are starting to be scared.”
“This conversation about carbon rationing has started because people all over the world have seen catastrophic climate change and I think things are changing even faster than scientists thought it would.”
Meanwhile, co-leader Jonathan Bartley officially launched the party’s Breathing Cities campaign during his speech. The initiative aims to make five city centres – London, Leeds, Sheffield, Bristol and Oxford – zero emission in the next five years.
Speaking to DeSmog UK, Climate Change Campaigns Officer Camilla Zerr said the campaign would capitalise on London mayor Sadiq Khan’s efforts to tackle air quality in the capital while Leeds, Sheffield and Bristol have been identified as cities already breaching pollution standards and where air quality is forecasted to get even worse over the next four years.
In Oxford, Zerr added the Green Party would use an existing debate over whether to set up a zero-emission zone as a springboard to push for a rapid transition to a low carbon economy.
This comes as MPs from four select committees have relaunched a joint inquiry on air quality in order to scrutinise cross-government plans to tackle pollution hotspots and to address the health and environmental impacts of air pollution.
Recent figures published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) showed that by the end of 2016 the UK still had the same number of zones with illegal levels of air pollution as in 2015 with 37 out of 43 zones in breach of EU air quality standards.
In a separate flooding campaign, the party hopes to open a conversation about the links between increasing rainfall in the UK and climate change by focusing on land management and practical ecological solutions to prevent flooding.
Bartley finished his speech with a call to arms for the party, suggesting members’ radical ideas could blaze a trail for other parties.
He said: “I know that sometimes it feels that we are not winning but where we lead others follow.
“I believe that we will be the most influential party in 21st century politics.”
Photo: David Holt via Flickr | CC2.0