In recent months the world has seen the brutality of climate change, as deadly hurricanes battered the Caribbean, America and, most recently, the UK. The immense force of nature and the threat of climate breakdown was laid bare as homes, lives and livelihoods were destroyed in moments.
In the days that followed Hurricane Irma I was immensely proud of my Co-Leader Caroline Lucas, who stood up in Parliament and called on the government to discuss what scientists now say is making the weather so extreme: climate change. But when Alan Duncan responded by accusing her of inhumanity, I was reminded just how far Britain has to go - and how much Westminster needs her voice.
As Caroline said then, the Green Party is not afraid to politicise climate change. The recent hurricanes were an urgent reminder of what happens when those with the most power to tackle the problem fail to protect those who will face its worst effects. The Green Party has a long, proud history of keeping climate change on the agenda when others have tried to keep it away – and our voice is needed now more than ever.
During the general election, the environment was conspicuous by its absence. With almost no mention in the leaders’ debates and glossed over in the manifestos, it was hard to believe any other party was committed to cleaning up our air, ending rapid biodiversity loss or stopping climate targets slipping further out of reach. An election that could have represented an historical point - making the UK a world leader in environmental protection - was instead marked by silence. I was immensely proud to be co-leading the only party to pierce this silence, to produce an environment manifesto, and to see our candidates and campaigners consistently put the environment front and centre.
To tackle climate change, we must place the environment at the heart of all we do. It is impossible to meet our climate targets while expanding airports, committing to dirty nuclear power and drilling for gas. I have been immensely proud of Green Party members and councillors who have not only told those in power we need action on these issues – they have put their bodies on the line, too. In the past few weeks I have had
the privilege of joining campaigners on the front line of the fight against fracking at Preston New Road and Kirby Misperton. At Preston New Road, local people and the council said they didn’t want fracking in their community, but the government overrode their wishes. Members like Anne Power, Tina Rothery and our brilliant councillor Gina Dowding are bravely standing up against this abuse of power, telling the government and fracking company Cuadrilla that fracking is dirty, dangerous and unnecessary - and they won’t stand for it in their community.
But however important such actions are, we also know that we cannot tackle climate change alone. By their very nature, environmental issues have no respect for borders and, with a hard Brexit on the horizon, the EU protections we currently rely on are under threat as never before. Greens will continue to fight for European environmental protections to be transferred into UK law, to stop the government’s power grab through the Withdrawal Bill and for a proper system of oversight.
It would be easy to see the future as bleak with the additional threat Donald Trump poses to all of us. His climate change denial and the destructive decision to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement might seem like a hammer blow for those of us who are concerned about climate change. When we are faced with challenges as huge as these, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, but the Green Party is needed now more than ever. However strong Trump’s denial is, or the assault from our own government seems, the momentum of the climate movement is stronger. The Green Party will always be its strongest champion and from doorsteps to council chambers, to the benches in Parliament, we will always speak truth to power.