Progressive opinion in the world today is united as never before on the threat global warming poses to the people of the world.
There is a clear need for radical action to deal with the danger, and progressives accept that there will have to be far-reaching changes to our way of life if we are to defeat it.
We must find ways to generate electricity and power our various modes of transport without burning vast quantities of fossil fuels. The biggest producers of harmful emissions in the world today are coal, gas and oil-fired power stations that spew out billions of tons of CO2 gases annually.
This means that the most pressing challenge is to develop cleaner ways of generating electricity. Of course, finding those solutions is not going to be easy, not when China opens a new coal-fired power station every few months and both Australia and the United States continue to defy demands for greenhouse gas reductions.
While that debate is ongoing, attention has shifted to reducing vehicle emissions. Transport is the second largest producer of harmful CO2 emissions, 90 per cent of which comes from cars.
The Scottish Socialist Party has been examining the issue for some time and has been impressed by the experience of the Belgian city of Hasselt, in Flanders.
In 1997 the authorities there faced chronic congestion, poor air quality and pressure from the car lobby. But instead of building more roads they decided on an altogether more radical approach.
They abolished the fares on their entire public transport system.
Critics scoffed at them, said it was madness and forecast that people would never leave their beloved cars just because the bus was free.
Yet in the space of three years passenger numbers in Hasselt increased tenfold from 330,000 in 1996 to 3.7million.
The new scheme also led to lower pollution levels as air quality improved. Road accident rates fell, billions were saved on road building and repairs and social inclusion rates improved markedly.
The Mayor of Hasselt Mr Steve Stevaert was so impressed that he concluded: "We don't need any more new roads, we need new thought highways."
The SSP advocates replicating the remarkable success enjoyed in Hasselt on a nationwide basis by introducing free travel for all passengers on buses, trains, Glasgow's underground system, Edinburgh's trams and ferries.
Last month's Public and Commercial Services union conference voted to endorse free public transport as a way of reducing global warming. I addressed the conference and outlined why the Scottish Socialist Party supports the measure as a way of reducing CO2 emissions and persuading people to leave their cars at home.
We believe this step will provide a huge incentive for people to leave their cars at home and in doing so emulate the Hasselt outcome in relation to reducing C02 emissions.
Implementing our proposal would require re-regulation of the buses and establishing a Scottish Bus Group to ensure the system was wholly integrated.
After that, we would take our railway network into public ownership and legislate to abolish fares.
The cost of introducing free public transport throughout Scotland would be Â£1bn - Â£500m per annum, the current income from fares, plus the cost of the new buses and trains needed to cope with the greatly increased demand.
However the cost would be offset by several other factors.
The CBI in Scotland estimates that congestion alone costs the economy Â£1.2bn a year. The NHS would also save substantially from reduced levels of respiratory illnesses and road traffic accidents.
Furthermore 850,000 low-paid workers who pay between Â£50-Â£100 per month in bus and train fares would also clearly benefit. Huge improvements in national quality of life would follow these outcomes.
Even these financial and social advantages, however, are outweighed by the benefits to be gained by substantially reducing our CO2 levels.
Sir Nicholas Stern chaired the Inter-Governmental Conference on Climate Change and in his conclusion he said that the grave threat from global warming meant that "the cost of doing nothing is the greatest of all."
A wide range of organisations now backs the free public transport initiative internationally. The endorsement of Britain's biggest Civil Service union is a significant addition.
The Scottish Socialist party's national council meets this week to consider proposals to take this issue forward. We plan to reach out and establish a broad coalition for free public transport in Scotland. We aim to make the issue a centrepiece of next year's Holyrood election.
Colin Fox is Joint National Spokesperson for the Scottish Socialist Party
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