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We won’t achieve climate justice without social justice

TOM PASHBY sets out why they are standing to be deputy leader of the Green Party

I JOINED the Green Party when I realised the other parties had failed to protect our environment. 

The neoliberal consensus had captured the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, and despite a brief attempt by Jeremy Corbyn to make Labour more socially democratic, Labour has since swung back to the right. 

We know that neoliberal capitalism has failed and is wrecking people’s lives and our planet. 

The Green Party has a fantastic policy platform which says we need to move away from consumption-based growth, concentrating wealth into the hands of the few, and towards a localised, circular economy which values wellbeing.

To those who think we should seek to establish a politics beyond left and right — that’s simply not the world we live in. 

People want to know where we stand, and we stand firmly on the side of the most marginalised communities, the key workers keeping the country going and the campaigners who believe we can act now to avert a climate crisis.

Soon after I joined the party, I contacted the then leader Natalie Bennett to find out how to get involved. 

She encouraged me to join my local Young Greens group, but since there wasn’t one, she suggested I set one up. So I did. 

Over the following two years, under Natalie’s leadership which focused on articulating a Green vision encompassing social and climate justice, we surged into our best general election result ever securing over one million votes in 2015.

Some in the party would like us to shy away from talking about social justice and austerity because the climate emergency is so urgent. 

Austerity has swept away stability from millions of people, with zero-hours contracts, less than living wage salaries, investment being gutted from public services and now we have a new massive economic crisis. 

People can’t think about protesting against fracking if they can’t afford to put food on the table and a roof over their head. 

On a purely party political level, it’s vital we communicate a vision which will help both people and the planet. 

Without that, Greens would be ignored as yet another centrist experiment — one that would fail. 

In terms of political reality, we won’t achieve climate justice without social justice. 

The vast volume of wealth hoarded by a small number of billionaires, which was extracted from precarious workers and devastated landscapes, could enable billions to be invested in a global Green New Deal, if it was redistributed fairly. 

We pride ourselves on being the best party for marginalised communities, and rightly so, although we are far from being representative of those communities. 

Climate breakdown is a threat multiplier for people already living on the edge. 

Even though it is much worse for communities in the global South, it also affects people living here in England and Wales. 

Fairborne, a village in the Welsh constituency of Dwyfor Meirionnydd, is being abandoned to the sea due to predicted sea level rise thanks to global warming. 

Dwyfor Meirionnydd already has a child poverty rate of 30 per cent. Voters in the constituency need both social and climate justice — only one or the other won’t help them. 

Climate and ecological breakdown gets worse every day. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in 2018 that we need to implement “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes” in our economies by 2030 to avert catastrophe. 

Two years later we’re in 2020 and greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. 

The coronavirus pandemic has led to lockdown and the fastest shrinkage in Britain’s economy since the 18th century. 

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has predicted that unemployment will reach 11.7 per cent in the UK, its highest level since 1984. 

With such a high rate of unemployment coming down the line, people are right to feel concerned. 

Our safety net has been stripped away by consecutive neoliberal governments. 

Greens support a real living wage and a universal basic income on top of a reformed welfare state — one which would support people when they need it, with enough to get by. 

Intersectional feminism must be at the heart of our decision-making when it comes to social and climate justice. 

If we decide one marginalised community is not worth supporting, we can’t call ourselves a party for social justice. 

Women, trans and non-binary people, Jewish people, Muslims, black people and other BAME people, Roma and Travellers, immigrants, disabled people and working-class people all face different types of oppression. 

Without recognising these multiple types of oppression, such as misogyny, transphobia, anti-semitism, Islamophobia, racism, ablism and class discrimination — we will be helping to maintain the system of privilege and oppression we want to dismantle. 

These lists are certainly not exhaustive and I believe we must support oppressed people regardless of what a minority of bigoted vocal voices might say otherwise. 

The Greens need to do well if we’re to recover from coronavirus and prepare for the climate emergency. 

I believe that we must be a proudly Green left alternative if we are to expand out of our comfortable bubble in London and the south, and elect more Green politicians to deliver a sustainable society for the common good. 

Voting is open from August 3-31 in the Green Party leadership and deputy leadership elections. Tom Pashby is standing for deputy leader, having stood in South West Hertfordshire in the 2019 general election. Tom uses they/them pronouns.

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