Not even baby steps

In this budget the Chancellor has taken absolutely no steps on the path to a green economy. Green growth is an oxymoron. The minute you grow anything, you have to degrow in a different area. Green growth is possible but not if you do not cut somewhere else. Every time we grow the economy, we take a bite out of the planet’s resources. In the words of Professor Jason Hickel, author of ‘Less is More’ –

“Decarbonization with growth is like trying to run down an escalator that is accelerating upwards”

My speech to the House last Thursday following the Spring Budget:

The IMF has forecast that the UK will be the worst-performing large advanced economy this year, but Britain’s decline, relative to those of other rich nations, is rooted in problems both old and new. 

Clearly, this Government have done their absolute best to trash our economy. We have had 13 years of economic mismanagement. We used to say, “Well, the thing about the Tories is that, however awful they are, at least they can manage money and know how to run an economy”. We cannot say that any more; in fact, the opposite is true. They have run our economy into the ground. I understand that Covid did not help but, in a crisis, you look to your best talents—clearly, the Tory Government did not have any. That is why we are in this situation at the moment.

Billions of pounds have been lost in bad decisions and lost investment. Millions more people are in poverty. Children and parents are going hungry. People are living in cold homes, with pensioners dying from hypothermia—and this Government have the cheek to put in their Budget the 1%, or whatever it is, for pension pots. Who is that for? It is for millionaires; it is not for people who are starving and cannot manage to pay their heating bills. It really is time that this Government understood the exact impact of what they are doing.

Today’s Budget announcement falls far short of the strong climate action needed. I have to repeat to the Government that, as Greens often say, green growth is an oxymoron. The minute you grow anything, you have to degrow in a different area. Green growth is possible but not if you do not cut somewhere else. Every time we grow the economy, we take a bite out of the planet’s resources—and it is a bite that will not grow back. Whatever this Government do, they seem to be moving in a way that is even more damaging to climate change.

Speaking to the Dutch Parliament recently, Professor Jason Hickel—his book, Less is More, should be compulsory reading for this Government—debunked the concept of green growth, saying:

“Decarbonization with growth is like trying to run down an escalator that is accelerating upwards”—

you are likely to fall on your face. People have to understand that using a tonne of fossil carbon and then trying to replace it with a tonne of new trees does not work. It is not a fair exchange; it is nowhere near compensation for the fossil fuel used. Carbon offsets will not save us from the worst of climate change; they are just something that make people feel good. They are absolutely ineffective and we have got to stop.

The simplest way to solve the problem of climate change is stopping the extraction and burning of fossil fuels. The Government have not even understood that; they are still mad about digging up coal and using oil. It is incredible that after decades of Greens like me telling the Government how to mitigate climate change, they still do not get it—plus, of course, this Chancellor continued the regressive freeze on fuel duty. That shows no grasp of the situation we are in; neither does his tweaking of the pension pot while not paying nurses and doctors. It is unbelievable stupidity. I know that there is now a deal, thank goodness, but why was there not one weeks ago? Why did we have to go through this pain? Why did patients have to go through it? I simply do not understand.

By the way, nuclear is not green. I cannot tell you how many times I have said that in this Chamber. 

Nuclear power is not green. It is filthy, it is very expensive and it is going to cause us problems in future. It is not green and it is not sustainable.

Our Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, said in the other place that the Chancellor could have announced a “wealth tax on the 1% richest people”, which “could raise up to £70 billion” and fund cheaper public transport, more home insulation and public sector pay rises for millions. He did not do that. He put in a measure that will benefit millionaires.

If you are worried about jobs, why not upscale green initiatives—green growth, if you like? For example, clean, green, abundant and affordable renewables are so much quicker, easier and cheaper than nuclear; with onshore and offshore wind, tidal and solar, we could do it and do it quickly. We must remember that growth is not necessarily prosperity; people seem to conflate the two but it is not true.

Green Alliance was very quick off the mark to give us a rapid review of the Spring Budget. It shows that the Chancellor has taken absolutely no steps on the path to a green economy. While the fiscal situation might be improving, the UK’s economy is still forecast to shrink this year, with falling living standards for households being a primary reason. It is not falling living standards for people such as us—we can manage; it is falling living standards for people who cannot even manage at the moment.

There is one tiny thing the Chancellor did right: alcohol duty will rise in line with RPI from 1 August. That might reduce alcohol harm in the UK while raising perhaps crucial public funds, but it is really so minor as to be almost not worth mentioning.

A Green Party economist, Molly Scott Cato, former MEP, said that a green Chancellor would ensure major investment in a green economy. That means meaningful investment in affordable renewables and a nationwide insulation programme. We have had so many complaints about Insulate Britain, the campaign group that caused so much fuss. In fact, we should have said, “You’re absolutely right: we need to insulate Britain. It is cheap, it is fast and it helps people”. This Government got hung up on the group’s campaigns, and now we are seeing the Public Order Bill, and so on, which are trying to stop people protesting again. Just those two measures—insulation and renewables—would help tackle greenhouse gas emissions and mean that people could afford to be warm in their homes. Is that not a kinder thing to do than to cut living standards?

Other measures would include fair pay for public sector workers and 35 hours a week of free childcare for all. I support the Government’s idea of capping bus fares, although it will not be in every place. The Greens would put a £1 single fare on all bus routes in England.

It really is time this Government were gone, before they cause yet more damage to us, our society and the reputation of the UK, and before they damage the planet any more than they have already.

Read the whole debate here: Budget Statement – Hansard – UK Parliament



Picket lines

On Spring Budget Day, amid the cost of living crisis and climate emergency, I did a tour of nearby picket lines staffed by teachers, civil servants and journalists and was interviewed by ITV about local BBC radio station cuts. I didn’t get to the picket lines staffed by junior doctors, university or tube staff but I support them too and condemn the Government’s Strikes Bill as a Slavery Bill Continue reading “Picket lines”

Brian Haw memorial

“Brian Haw (1949-2011) was one of the most visible, influential, determined and adhesive peace campaigners of our times. In June 2001, he began a peace protest at Parliament Square in Westminster, where he remained for nearly ten years.” Actor and campaigner Mark Rylance writes about him for the Big Issue.

A Crowdfunder has been set up to fund the installation of a small statue of Brian, facing the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth, creating a permanent symbol of protest for peace – you can support the Crowdfunder here

Continue reading “Brian Haw memorial”

Clean Air Bill letter to PM

On Friday Jenny went with Caroline Lucas MP and Ella’s mother, Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah to 10 Downing Street to deliver a letter to the PM – urging him to take up #EllasLaw and to make clean air a human right for all. The longer it takes him & his Govt to clean up our dirty, toxic air, the more lives will be put at risk – they *must* support this Bill.

The 2nd reading of Ella’s Law (Clean Air Bill) in the Commons is scheduled for 24th March.

Caroline has an Early Day Motion (EDM) in support of the right to breathe clean air, has your MP signed in support of the EDM yet? Please email your MP and ask them to sign Caroline’s Clean Air EDM

Open Letter from the Wildlife Trusts on HS2

I signed this open letter today:

Rt Hon Mark Harper MP and Rt Hon Thérèse Coffey MP

Dear Secretaries of State,

An urgent call to address new evidence of ecological assessment errors by HS2 Ltd

We write collectively to bring a new report to your attention which shows that the environmental cost of HS2 is far higher, and more serious, than HS2 Ltd has claimed. Continue reading “Open Letter from the Wildlife Trusts on HS2”

Retained EU Law Bill arrives in Lords

Some 2,000 years ago, the Roman philosopher Cicero said, “The closer the collapse of an empire, the crazier its laws”. That is what we have here. There are families who are starving, people who are freezing in their homes and workers rightfully striking on the streets, but we are debating this dross. Just as the Public Order Bill is an attack on democracy in the streets, this Bill is an attack on democracy here within Parliament. Rather than taking back control, the Government are seeking to take away Parliament’s sovereign power of voting for or against laws and to hand that power over to a chaotic Executive of right-wing Ministers and their civil servants. We have reached the slash-and-burn stage of Brexit. The only sensible thing now is to cut our losses and rejoin the EU.

Continue reading “Retained EU Law Bill arrives in Lords”