GREEN PARTY POLICIES - Why vote green in 2018
|Ending the homelessness crisis||Tackling air pollution||Saving threatened community facilities||Protecting the environment||Challenging BREXIT||Promoting a healthy democracy|
Chair of South Oxfordshire District Council starts fundraising for Earth Trust
Cllr Jo Robb, Chair of South Oxfordshire District Council, joined up with Earth Trust, as one of her chosen charities for this year, and began her fundraising by helping to launch sponsored Autumnal Walks that celebrate the beautiful wildlife in our district.
Earth Trust has identified a 10-kilometre and 5-kilometre walk to help residents and visitors take time out and reconnect to woodlands. The 10-kilometre walk takes in Earth Trust’s Clomp the Clumps family activity sheet which includes information and child friendly quizzes to encourage exploration of nature.
Cllr Robb walked along the 5-kilometre trail joined by Jayne Manley, Chief Executive of Earth Trust, as well as her fellow district councillors and friends. The route took the group into Broad Arboretum, with 49 native trees and shrubs, which are currently displaying wonderful autumnal colours. The group also made their way to Neptune Wood to see the trees that were planted to commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar and the death of Nelson, and to look at the series of maritime-themed willow sculptures.
The 10-kilometre walk takes visitors around the Trust’s Wittenham Clumps, which date back to the Iron Age, and through Little Wittenham Wood, one of Europe’s most important places for wildlife and a haven for insects, birds, mammals and the protected great crested newt. It also takes people down to the Trust’s River of Life project, a wetland area, where everyone can enjoy looking out for damsels, dragonflies, herons and kingfishers.
Cllr Robb said: “As Chair of the council I’m very excited to be able to help support Earth Trust this year. The Trust plays an important role in protecting and restoring our local natural environment and gives us all the opportunity to enjoy beautiful green spaces to benefit our own health and wellbeing. Autumn is such a colourful and beautiful season to explore nature at its best, so I hope everyone is able to get out this half term to enjoy these walks.”
Join Cllr Robb in raising funds for Earth Trust and help meet the £2,500 target by taking part in your own sponsored Autumnal Walk between 25 October and 30 November.
Register your team online for £5 at www.earthtrust.enthuse.com/cf/sponsored-autumnal-walk and on the day of your choice come and complete your preferred walking route: family friendly, accessible, or the full 10 km. All money raised will be going directly to Earth Trust as part of Cllr Robb’s fundraising to help care for the charity’s precious woodlands and to plant more trees for future generations to enjoy.
Jayne Manley said: "We are incredibly grateful to Jo for nominating us as a South Oxfordshire charity of the year. Earth Trust's green spaces are havens for wildlife, provide vital natural solutions to combat climate change, as well as offering us all a place to take a break from our busy lives. Taking part in this sponsored walk is a fantastic opportunity to join a growing community of people that recognise the importance of connecting with and caring for our environment – we have loved developing these three routes for everyone to take part, have fun and keep fit at the same time!”
Help Cllr Robb raise funds for Earth Trust this autumn to care for the incredible green spaces they provide to the public. Register your team at www.earthtrust.enthuse.com/cf/sponsored-autumnal-walk and on the day of your choice come and complete your preferred walking route: family-friendly, accessible, or the full 10km. A stunning walk awaits you and your team, through woodlands and farmland, along riverbank or lakeshore, and all while raising funds for a very worthwhile cause. Let's get walking this autumn!
Details of the three specially designed routes:
Ox-Cam Arc - a closer look at Environment
The Ox-Cam Arc is a large scale plan which, if adopted, would reshape our county. You can read more about it here, https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/creating-a-vision-for-the-oxford-cambridge-arc . In this blog series, we take a look at the issues and challenges around the Arc, and how the Green Party is responding. In this blog, we’re looking at the environment.
Following the recent IPCC Report the need to ‘step up’ our climate response has become scarily clear. Not only did it conclude that extreme weather events will become increasingly common- with at least one “practically ice-free” Arctic summer by 2050- but it also said that the critical tipping point of 1.5oC warming would be reached by 2040, if not before, in all predicted scenarios tested.
Whilst the government now aims for “sustainable and green economic growth”, as promoted by the Arc project, the Greens think that, within this newly accelerated timeframe, new projects should be agnostic about growth and be centered on respecting planetary boundaries and an imminent emergency response. If a house is on fire, there’s not much point building an extension… to paraphrase Greta Thunberg.
Ambitious targets like Net Carbon Zero by 2030 at the latest and a carbon negative ARC should be the primary focus of future plans. For example, whilst the government considers setting up a new ‘Arc Growth Body’, we would suggest that growth in the Arc region is not only relatively useless, but might be impossible to generate in the first place while we are overwhelmed by floods, drinking water shortages or air pollution - as predictions suggest. Instead, a new ‘Arc Climate Emergency Body’ might precipitate a more apt response.
Climate Change Resilience and Net Zero
The Arc consultation requires that new developments work towards national net zero targets and can respond to ‘future climate change’- a thinly veiled admission of the predicted climate emergencies the area will face.
Whilst skeptical of current national targets, the Greens do appreciate the vision of the Arc put forwards: as a ‘forum for joint work to deliver on zero carbon commitments’. We also whole-heartedly support the emergence of the Arc region as ‘a world-leader for environmental sustainability’. Our great universities have already proven themselves capable of world-leading innovation within a global crisis once!
But none of this can be achieved if policy does not acknowledge and adapt for these most recent climate trajectories. The climate-oriented goals are at odds with, and often fundamentally undermined by, the Arc’s focus on major housing and road-building projects. Building roads and one million houses (when empty properties have been on the rise for the last four years!) will not only compound issues with property prices in our area, but also destroy many of the carbon sinks desperately needed to absorb all their emissions.
The Arc Consultation establishes a tone that embraces climate activists like us- and whilst 5 years ago it might have seemed like a huge shift in the right direction, today it lacks the urgency our new circumstances demand. Growth is nice- it is politically popular and necessary within most thriving economies - but in the context of an emergency, it is a luxury item.
Green spaces, nature and biodiversity
Within the Arc region are vast areas of natural beauty: from the Chilterns and Cotswolds to the wildflower meadows in Cambridgeshire fenlands and the 5,700km of river flowing through it all. We are pleased that the Arc consultation recognizes the significance of these natural spaces, promising to prioritise the protection of, and access to, these areas. Many of these spaces are in need of this, and the pandemic definitely showed lots of us how important our local green spaces really were.
Whilst both the Greens and the government are recognizing the significance of these places though, it seems to be for slightly different reasons. The government- once again focused on roads and connectivity- seems to prioritise human access to these areas. The Greens acknowledge the beauty of these natural spaces but also, more practically, we understand them to be essential carbon sinks for mitigating dangerous emissions. This means we need more, not just to conserve the ones we have for our enjoyment.
Slightly concerningly, their ‘Local Natural Capital Plan’ makes such spaces part of public accounts- assigning a value and, by implication, a price. Throughout the Arc consultation we see this mentality: ‘making sure natural capital forms a key part of planning and decision-making’ or ‘identifying opportunities’ to ‘invest in nature’. Even though we support the preservation of these spaces, we should be wary of advocating these outlooks and motives moving forwards.
Air quality, water and waste
These are some of the top issues facing our areas right now, not just in the future. The government report recognizes not only poor air quality in many areas of the Arc, but also identifies it as ‘one of the most water stressed areas of the country’, anticipating droughts as soon as 2050.
We are very glad that the Arc Consultation fully recognizes these risks. They commit to looking for opportunities where improved water infrastructure and resilience can be implemented. Whilst they don’t specify particular project plans, if they can follow through on these goals we will atleast make progress towards managing future crises as they loom.
Once again though, there is something of a contradiction at play. Even though refreshingly open about some of these risks, their plans for ‘sustainable’ growth continue to undermine much of the wider agenda. The consultation simultaneously acknowledges the poor air quality caused by ‘high rates of car use’ AND still advocates for major road-building. It admits the serious possibility of future droughts, BUT continues to stress the need for continuous housing expansion, putting more pressure on water supplies. This report is given in terms and tones that we can get on board with- but it is as yet unclear whether this is ultimately a growth agenda or a green one…
If you want to submit your own views to the consultation, you have until October 12th.
Can the Ox-Cam Arc fit in the Doughnut? Economics and the Arc
The Ox-Cam Arc is a large scale plan which, if adopted, would reshape our county. You can read more about it here. In this blog series, we take a look at the issues and challenges around the Arc, and how the Green Party is responding. In this blog, we’re looking at the economy. And doughnuts.
As Greens, we believe that the economy is about more than just increasing GDP, or making money for shareholders. Our economy should work to improve all our lives, and it should do that without damaging the planet.
We’re big fans of Doughnut Economics, an economic model developed by Oxford economist Kate Raworth. This concept aims to balance essential human needs and planetary boundaries. In response to the unprecedented challenges ahead, Doughnut Economics will be a crucial tool for fostering sustainability post-pandemic, as officials grapple with the fallout from coronavirus.
Basically, the doughnut shows us how far away from the boundaries set by the planet we are, and how far away from meeting the needs of our society we are. We want to end up inside the doughnut – enjoying a delicious combination of social goods, while avoiding over-exploiting and damaging our natural environment.
Food, housing, healthcare and other needs must be met while ensuring that we do not collectively overshoot pressure on Earth’s life-supporting systems which we depend on. This requires us to start being “agnostic about growth”, and to face the unprecedented challenge of creating economies that make us thrive, whether or not they grow. Note that this doesn’t mean we want to lower living standards or take away things we enjoy – it just means that our economy needs to balance this against the needs of the planet, and distribute the resources we have fairly.
So, with that in mind – can the OxCam Arc fit in the doughnut?
The Good – Green Jobs and Green Growth
The answer is “maybe”. The Arc Consultation Paper states the intention of planning for “sustainable and green economic growth”, and mentions that the government is considering setting up a new Arc Growth Body. The intention for growth to be sustainable and green, as a guiding principle, is very encouraging, and we would encourage further fine-tuning in terms of a clear definition of “sustainable and green” economic growth, committing to tangible targets, notably in terms of the respect for planetary boundaries.
However, as is, the plan still looks like it’s built around a 20th-century, GDP-based version of growth. So how do we change that? Firstly, rather than setting up an Arc Growth Body, we should set up an Arc Climate Emergency Body instead – which focuses on getting the results for people and planet we need, rather than growth for its own sake. This has happened elsewhere in the county; bearing in mind the fact that there is a climate emergency, the Oxfordshire Growth Board is now the ‘Future Oxfordshire Partnership’ – a change that reflects a much needed shift in focus, and will hopefully be a shift not only in name.
Homes and Roads
Some of the areas that reflect this 20th century thinking are homes and roads. As much as supporting growth “in a way that is sustainable” – as the current proposal puts it, is a very desirable objective in principle, some of these factors risk undermining it.
When it comes to transport, the harsh reality is that every meter of road built destroys carbon sinks we badly need, and emits further CO2 in the process of being built – and that would be before the increased usage of any new roads. In Oxfordshire, for example, road transport has already been the single largest CO2 emission source, by sector, since at least 2014, and we simply cannot afford to let this continue anymore. We want to see much better provision of public transport and active travel, to get people out of cars as much as possible.
Another major point of contention is housebuilding. Again, the current proposal is based on houses as an asset, not a place to live. Contrary to the prevailing dogma, there is little if any evidence that building more houses has any significant impact on house prices, particularly given the repeated interventions by Central Government to support the current unaffordable prices, that only serve to profit developers.
The number of empty properties have increased for the last four years in a row, and it is hard to conceive how building yet more homes would help assuage the empty homes problem. Much less carbon budget would be spent if we devised a policy to re-deploy currently empty housing stock.
We want the right homes in the right places – and that means big changes are necessary to tackle the issues at the heart of the housing crisis. If you look at our manifesto, you can see how we propose tackling soaring prices by bringing the rental sector under tighter control, and purchase property that has been long-term vacant, returning it to use as social housing, seeking compulsory purchase orders if necessary.
If we can get this right, we can genuinely create an area that leads the way in terms of a green economy, that’s fit for the 21st century.
There are plenty of example to draw on too - cities all across the Arc could consider initiatives such as joining the City of Amsterdam as a pioneer in the “Donut Coalition”, to promote a regenerative local economy, and/or joining the C 40 Network as an “Innovator City”, signing up to commitments from the world’s leading cities, for instance by endorsing “Deadline 2020”, a commitment to urgently pursue high ambition climate action, demonstrating how to deliver on the Paris Agreement.
Read our full proposal here >
If you want to submit your own views to the consultation, you have until October 12
Come along and meet other local Greens and their friends at 'The White House'. Chat about life, trees, local campaigns and news over a glass of something refreshing. We're also looking forward to supporting this great local social enterprise, 'Social Tap' at their new-ish location on Abingdon Road, Oxford. Everyone welcome.
For COP 26, we need more than words, words, words: We need action!
Make them listen: Get involved with the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice on Saturday 6th November! With events happening all over the world and online, everyone can help demand real commitments from their local and national governments.
At 1pm on Saturday 6 November, people of Oxfordshire will be on the march. We’ll meet at Manzil Way, Cowley Road (setting off at 1.30pm), and finish in a rally on Broad Street. Bring your wittiest banners and all willing friends!
Hear from Green politicians, climate feminist ambassadors, talk to farmers and indigenous people, ask green economists to explain what is going on, as they come to the Green Economics stall inside COP26 from Kenya, Uganda, Italy, Finland, Scotland and even England.
RSVP to get the Zoom connection details and to receive updates on who will be there on Tuesday 9 November.