The national Green Party Spring Conference - in a nutshell
David Flint from Enfield Green Party reports back from the Green Party of England & Wales' Spring Conference.
Joy in the ranks
Repeatedly speakers announced themselves as the "newly elected councillor for so-and-so" - usually to enthusiastic applause. New councillors are digging in to make changes on issues from water fountains to climate change. (Maybe not so far apart.)
Climate emergency - local action
The Association of Green Councillors (AGC) is working hard to get Climate Emergency motions and then effective action in scores of areas. Local GPs are working with eXtinction Rebellion in many places.They are also working with other parties - even Tories, though not UKIP. We have to get wide agreement on this. The party target - net zero emissions by 2030 - is cited in many of the motions even those supported by Tories. Its clear that many of those supporting this target have no idea what it will entail.
There are some interesting ideas but mostly growing realisations that
- there are practical actions to reduce emissions
- getting anywhere near the party target will be hugely difficult
- it can't be done without big money from central government.
Climate emergency - Green Party action
Climate emergency was all over the place in speeches and workshops and the party made some commitments.
The Climate Change Policy Working Group changed its name to the Climate Emergency Policy Working Group (CE PWG). ( I was re-elected convener.)
Conference made a declaration of Climate Emergency and instructed the CE PWG to identify the gaps between our current policies and those needed to address the climate emergency. It then instructed ALL PWGs to work with CE PWG to fix them. That is a significant innovation in our policy process which has been bottom-up in the past.
We also revised party policy to call for an immediate transition to increasingly plant-based diets. In one sense this isn't new, the party has always wanted this dietary shift. But its now being seen as necessary and urgent on both health and climate change grounds. I got support for this view from at least four PWGs so it will become embedded in our policy as we go forward.
Conference spent a lot of time debating the proposed new constitution but in the end there were too many problems and loose ends for it to get through. The work is necessary but its REALLY tedious.
Conference adopted a comprehensive new policy on tax and spending. The policy accepts the need for more spending to reverse austerity (and to address climate change). It would also simplify the tax system and shift the burden of taxation from the poor to the rich, from renters to owners, etc.