By Anders Lorenzen
The UK is in a bizarre situation; with no agreement reached on Brexit they’re taking part in the upcoming European elections without knowing for how long the elected MEPs will sit.
The Green Party, which has been championing to stay in the EU despite the Brexit referendum result, launched their European Election campaign this month where I caught up with their Deputy Leader Amelia Womack.
‘We’ll fight to keep our MEPs in place’
Whilst Womack acknowledged there was uncertainty about how long MEPs would stay in place she insisted her party would campaign hard to make sure they stuck around for at least the next five years. She felt that the fact the European election point had been reached was a direct result of people campaigning to make sure Brexit was challenged.
The Green Party has been the only party to put the climate and environmental crisis at the front of their EU policies and Womack’s bold opinion is that what the Greens do other parties eventually follow. She explained that Greens from all other European countries is very effective in getting ambitious green legislation passed in the European Parliament, citing its strong legislation on climate change.
Womack wasn’t sure that a landslide by the recently formed Brexit Party can be avoided but said that the Greens are working to challenge the Brexit Party narrative put forward by the party. She feels that where Greens have been elected they have worked hard for the people they represent, stating “That track record is something people will vote for time and time again”.
It’s a no-brainer that we need the EU to combat climate change
Womack believes we definitely need to remain in the EU to meaningfully tackle big collective issues like climate change. “The fact we can work across borders to reduce our emissions and having a clear policy on zero carbon by 2030, for example, means that we are working together to use our knowledge and our power to achieve those big ambitions. What we are able to achieve when we collaborate is stronger than when working individually.”
Not to be confused with the much-hyped Green New Deal put forward by some US Democrats, the UK Green Party is working on a similar plan with the same name both in the UK and the EU. It began as a Green Party policy idea several years ago, that looks at how green jobs can lift people out of recession and begin a ‘green industrial revolution’: In Womack’s own words, “We know the next industrial revolution is around the corner and it is a green industrial revolution. It needs to be about people and the environment and making sure that the benefits of it are equally shared”.
The UK government is handpicking the low-hanging fruits of climate policy
Womack was not impressed by the UK government’s action on climate change so far and feels they’ve defaulted to handpicking the low hanging fruits of climate policy. She doesn’t feel it matches the extent of the climate crisis we are facing nor the fact that the UN has stated that we have 11 years to stop runaway climate change. “The crisis warrants that we stop subsidising fossil fuels, keep our fossil fuels in the ground, have clear investments in renewables, invest in Swansea tidal lagoon rather than Hinkley, it means investing in public transport, it means making public transport the cheapest and easiest option, making sure we have got home insulation. We need the government to support a green future and stop subsidising the most polluting industries”, Womack said.
She also explained that even though the UK Labour party has put in a motion to declare a climate emergency the motion first went through councils with a large Green representation.
Womack said that the time is tight to beat the climate crisis but that we can still do it if we do the right things, and that ambitious climate policies should have been put through 30 years ago and not today, but that, of course, the second best time to do it is today. “Had we put them in place 30 years ago where would be today?” she asks.
“We have to make sure we build that green future because business as usual needs to end before business, as usual, ends us”, Womack concluded.
UK voters head to the polls on Thursday the 23rd of May.
Amelia Womack was speaking to Anders Lorenzen at the Green Party’s European Election campaign launch at the Candid Arts in Islington, London.