Autumn Conference 2023 round-up

The weekend saw several motions passed – on banning ‘High Carbon Adverts’, the four-day working week, HS2, and more.

Zack Polanski and Carla Denyer Autumn Conference 2023
Zack Polanski and Carla Denyer Autumn Conference 2023

Deputy leader Zack Polanski (left) and co-leader Carla Denyer (right) ahead of their keynote speech at Autumn Conference 2023

Green World

Members vote to ban ‘High Carbon Adverts’ 

On Saturday, members backed a motion put forward by Caroline Lucas MP which called for an immediate ban on ‘High Carbon Advertising’. 

The ban would include adverts that promote goods, products and services that are carbon intensive, with Lucas declaring them ‘incompatible with a sustainable society or liveable future’. 

Sîan Berry, who is campaigning to become the next Green MP for Brighton Pavilion when Caroline Lucas stands down at the next election, said: “We need to end the sprawl of adverts seeking to persuade us to buy products and services which wreck our climate, damage our environment and worsen our health. 

“We need instead to make space for adverts for products and services which will support our local economies and help create a fairer and greener world – adverts for things such as active travel, healthier foods and sustainable fashion.”

“Controls on advertising are common. Transport for London restricts advertising for a range of products including junk food, and is now close to banning gambling promotion, while France and Amsterdam are also working on high carbon adverts.” 

Put communities and environment ahead of shareholder dividends, Greens say

Also on the Saturday of conference, a motion was passed that would require companies to put environmental and social priorities ahead of financial returns to shareholders. 

The motion – which passed with a large majority – makes it clear that the right of shareholders to dividends must not be the single most important criterion for company policy making and that all those with a stake in the company’s decisions – including workers, consumers, the local community and advocates for the local environment – must have the right to make informed input into those decisions. 

Ellie Chowns, Green Party parliamentary candidate in North Herefordshire, said:  “I’m delighted that the Green Party today agreed that the Companies Act 2006 should be amended so that directors of a company must prioritise public well-being and avoid negative environmental and social consequences. This means that companies will need to invest profits in transitioning their operations to meet social and environmental objectives before distributing dividends to shareholders. This is an idea popular with the public and even with many businesses themselves.”  

“No industry has demonstrated more clearly the need to put environmental and social priorities ahead of financial returns than the water industry. Since privatisation, this industry has leaked out almost £70bn in dividends to shareholders while it has failed to invest in updating its infrastructure. This has left us with toxic rivers and waterways and sewage-contaminated coastlines. If ever an industry needed to put the interests of consumers, local communities and the environment ahead of the financial returns for shareholders, this is it.” 

Members call for full public inquiry into mismanagement of HS2

The Party voted on Sunday for a full public inquiry into the Conservative Government’s mismanagement of HS2 – which was submitted as an emergency motion to the Brighton conference. 

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that Phase 2 of HS2 from Birmingham to Manchester would be cancelled during the Conservative Party conference last week (5 October). 

Members called for Parliament to investigate: 

  • Lack of oversight and regulation of HS2 finances 
  • The mismanagement of the Euston rebuild 
  • The removal of safeguarding of the route, effectively an attempt to sabotage future governments 
  • The redirecting of funds from HS2 cancellation to road building schemes, which is incompatible with the Climate Emergency 

Green Peer Natalie Bennett said: “It is clear that whatever anyone’s views on HS2 as a project, the Conservatives have hopelessly mismanaged both the build and the most recent decision to cancel the project. 

"To restore trust, we need to ensure that lessons are learnt from this disastrous experience and the public has a clear view of responsibilities. 

"Particularly, there needs to be an examination of how money can be transferred from rail to road spending in this cavalier and non-transparent way." 

Green Party calls for a four-day working week

Also on Sunday, the Green Party voted to support a motion for a four-day working week. The motion was proposed by Catherine Rowett, spokesperson on Work, Employment and Social Security. 

A recent trial of a four-day week with a range of organisations from diverse sectors and sizes found that of the 61 companies that participated, 56 are continuing with the four-day week, with 18 confirming the policy is a permanent change. 

Rowett commented: “The UK has one of the highest working hours rates in Europe while having one of the least productive economies. The Green Party has today backed a policy of introducing a maximum 32-hour working week where workers have a right to request these reduced hours be worked over four rather than five days at no loss of pay.  

“The evidence is clear. A four-day working week is good for business, good for workers, good for the climate because people will have to commute less, and it is now confirmed as Green Party policy.”