UK election and the climate emergency

The election on 12 December must make the climate emergency top priority, says Kate Nevens.

In these charged political times it is not easy to find common ground between members of different political parties. But over the last 4 weeks I am sure that there is a shared view on the trials of holding a snap election in mid-December. Talking to canvassers or stopping at a street stall is not necessarily a high priority for most people when it is as cold and dark as it is in Edinburgh right now.

Beyond that, there is less consensus. What is this election about? It depends who you are. Maybe, it’s Brexit. Maybe it’s Scottish independence. Or maybe, as I believe, it is about staking out the radical actions which are needed if we are to have a liveable planet in decades to come. Not, “after Brexit.” Not “after independence”. Now.

I see that urgency in my own work in international development: in countries where the battle for fragile resources and to recover blighted land is already a matter of life and death.

And none of this is to say that the UK’s relationship with the European Union or Scotland’s relationship with the UK are not landmark issues. The Green position on both is crystal clear. Since day one I have campaigned against Brexit and colleagues and I have consistently pushed for the right of people in Scotland to decide on forging a new relationship with the UK, seizing the opportunity to use powers currently hoarded at Westminster. But there’s no palatable future on a scorched planet.

After all, the climate clock is ticking. The United Nations has warned that we have until 2030 to have taken the kind of steps that normally only happen in times of war or great national crisis. That crisis is here now and the parliament which is elected in 10 days’ time will see us through half of that timescale. That is why the climate emergency needs to be its top priority.

What does that mean for the actions we need to take?

It means a dramatic shift from petrol and diesel cars to free public transport, bikes and walking. The good news here in Edinburgh is that it will also slash congestion, air pollution and improve health.

It means wholesale reform of our energy supplies, focusing on public and community ownership to complete the transition to renewables. Welcome news for households suffering fuel poverty here in the capital and for pioneering schemes like Edinburgh Community Solar Co-operative.

It means introducing a Scottish Green New Deal: creating tens of thousands of jobs in a new food economy, home-grown green technology and restoring the natural environment. In turn that would mean a reshaping of the multi-billion-pound Edinburgh City Region Deal so that it serves the economy of the future.

And it means transforming the world of work towards greater balance with caring and volunteering and transforming a harsh social security system through a guaranteed basic income for all. With Edinburgh’s Poverty Commission currently spotlighting the terrible toll of poverty on the capital, and the huge gender pay gap across the city – particularly in my area of Edinburgh South – business as usual won’t do.

Now, other parties in the election will try to persuade you that they get the need to act on the threats to our planet. They will pledge targets but fail to agree actions. They will invest in renewable energy but stay addicted to oil and gas. They will be photographed on bikes but deliver more road-building. They will say one thing and do another. So it’s time for the many voters who recognise the climate emergency for what it is, to say so at the ballot box.

That is why the election on 12 December is one where, above all else, I’ll be demanding climate action and inviting others to do so too.

Kate Nevens is the Scottish Green Party candidate in Edinburgh South.  This blog first appeared in the Edinburgh Evening News on 2 December 2019.