Every day heralds a news story about what we should be doing to fight climate change: we’ve got to cut down on buying new clothes. Ditch dairy. Stop flying.
This kind of ‘climate spring’ has seen Extinction Rebellion protests and scheduled school walkouts force the public to wake up to the realities of climate change at last.
But none of this goes far enough. Putting the sole responsibility for dealing with an environmental apocalypse on individuals misses the point entirely.
There are loads of ways to ‘go green’ that will all go some way to reducing your carbon footprint. The Guardian recently revealed that “even a short-haul return flight from London to Edinburgh [is] contributing more CO2 than the mean annual emissions of a person in Uganda or Somalia”.
If we want real, sustainable, industrial change however, we need government intervention.
Climate change disproportionately affects lower income communities and people of colour, which is why we need a Green New Deal (GND).
The GND is a set of goals created to tackle the climate crisis by putting social justice at the centre of policy making. It will create secure, well-paid jobs as well as providing a huge amount of investment in renewable energies and energy efficiency measures.
Over in the States, Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez has been whipping up momentum around a US Green New Deal - it's set to be one of the core issues of the 2020 presidential election.
The American model is based on the New Deal of the 1930s, which focussed on America’s recovery after the Great Depression. Our version is inspired by that, but focussed on the current climate emergency.
On this side of the Atlantic, we can tackle climate change best by reviving Europe’s economy and addressing gender, economic and social inequalities.
A Green New Deal will kick-start the economy by ending austerity, via a commitment to the biggest investment we have ever seen in renewable energy. Employment and job creation is absolutely fundamental to fighting climate change, which is why I sit on the employment and environmental committees in Brussels.
Growing up in 80s Liverpool, I saw UK-based industries collapse with no safety net for skilled workers whose families have been working in the same areas for generations. A Green New Deal could undo some of that damage, injecting life into areas of the UK which feel abandoned and let down by their leaders.
Investing in these jobs means setting up for the future - we need more innovation, more jobs, more money going into clean and safe energy and efficient building, not less.
By putting jobs at the forefront of the discussion around climate change, we can do things like ensure that vulnerable members of society live in properly insulated housing. Something as simple as investing in effective insulation would create more jobs and ensure that fewer people have to stay in accommodation that is too hot or cold for a good standard of living.
Successive governments have failed our communities, who have been left voiceless and ignored. Many can’t get onto the housing ladder, struggling to put food on the table and take home less than they would if they didn’t work.
In-work poverty has creates a dependence on food banks for thousands. People are left to decide whether to eat or heat their homes, as fuel and food prices increase.
It’s completely predictable that communities have turned inwards, looking for easy scapegoats to blame for the situations that they have been put in.
But by putting people and their futures at the centre of the Green New Deal, we can turn society around by injecting newfound hope and optimism into people’s lives. And, crucially, we can act on the worst impacts of the climate crisis - before it really is too late.
Alexandra Phillips is a Green MEP for the South-East Region of the UK.