GPEW Autumn Conference 2021: policy round-up

This year’s autumn conference saw a range of policies proposed by party members – Green World rounds up the motions passed this weekend, which will form part of the Green Party’s policy going forward.

Amelia Womack addressing the 2021 autumn conference
Green World

23 October

Free social care for all adults

On Saturday, Green Party members voted in favour of proposals to ensure social care is fully publicly funded – this would mean the end of a system in which many people have to pay for private social care, which has been estimated to cost £11 billion per year, and even those receiving publicly-funded social care end up paying a total of more than £3 billion towards their support.

Former Green Spokesperson for Health and Social Care Larry Sanders proposed the motion. Commenting on its passing, the Oxfordshire Green Party member said: "The NHS is based on the principle that need, not wealth, should determine the health care we get. Today, the Green Party backed the same principle for Social Care.

"The hundreds of thousands of people who need help to eat and wash, get residential care when they need it and to lead a full life under their own control, can do so with their support paid for in the same way as the NHS. The Tory government said that charges should be capped at £86,000. We say they should be capped at zero.

“We also committed ourselves to good pay and conditions for care workers and to giving family carers the support they need."

Support for climate refugees

Saturday also saw party members vote to extend the definition of a refugee to include those forced to leave their homes as a result of the Climate Emergency. The motion also agreed that the definition of refugees should go beyond that contained in the UN Convention to include those persecuted on the grounds of any characteristic in this country under the Equality Act 2010, such as LGBTQ+ rights.

The Party also agreed that the UK should accept at least 10,000 refugees annually under the UK Resettlement Programme, in addition to those seeking asylum.

Benali Hamdache, Green Party Migration and Refugee Support spokesperson, said: “What Green Party conference agreed today is a compassionate antidote to the cruel hostility this government is showing towards refugees and asylum seekers. Indeed, the Borders Bill could be in breach of international human rights law.

“Greens have agreed we need to go even further in protecting and welcoming refugees who are displaced due to the climate crisis, something that is a reality for tens of thousands of people already. We will also offer sanctuary to those persecuted on any characteristic protected in this country by UK law. The overwhelming support for this motion shows that for Greens refugees are welcome here.”

Rights of Nature Act to give nature legal rights

Members also agreed to the adoption of a new suite of policies to provide ecosystems with legal protection. Under the new policy, the party would enact a Rights of Nature Act which would extend legal protections for wildlife and habitats in England and Wales, and would establish an independent Commission for Nature to oversee the Act’s enforcement. 

Also included in the wide-ranging set of policies adopted by the Green Party on Saturday are proposals to ban pesticides harming pollinators, including neonicotinoids, and plans to pay farmers to set aside at least 15 per cent of their land for wildlife. 

The Greens also said they will increase access to nature for people of colour and people with mobility difficulties, including by commissioning research into barriers for these groups and through ensuring there is accessible public transport to areas of nature from within cities.

The proposals would be carried out through a fully-publicly funded 30-year strategy for nature.

Green Party Natural World spokesperson, Jonathan Elmer, commented: “We face an ecological emergency which threatens the survival of all life on the planet including our own. The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world with about half of its biodiversity lost. 

“There is overwhelming public support for protecting nature and rewilding. By giving nature legal rights and establishing a Commission for Nature, Greens have agreed on the most forward-looking national policy in the world for the protection and restoration of nature.

“This bold approach must now challenge the government and other parties to go further in addressing the tragic depletion of nature and wildlife and creating a thriving natural environment for the future.”  

24 October

£1.3 trillion pledged for international climate finance

On Sunday, members voted to support Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) policies that acknowledge the harm caused by the UK’s historical carbon emissions and would provide reparations for that damage. Plans would see ODA and Climate Finance increase to a projected £50 billion per year by 2030, to help developing countries respond to climate change.

The policies would more than triple the proportion of the UK’s Gross National Income (GNI) spent on ODA from 0.7 per cent to 2.5 per cent by 2030. This proposed increase would include 1.5 per cent of GNI specifically allocated to climate finance, with the party adding that more money will be needed for climate finance, as the world must rush to reduce carbon emissions and address the impacts of climate change. The proposed ODA budget stands in contrast to the £10.5 billion that the UK provides in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry every year.

Greens of Colour Chair Azzees Minott spokesperson said: “We need to fund planet repairs in a just and equitable way. It is crucial we acknowledge that this global capitalist economy is rooted in the extraction of resources from the Global South and the exploitation and enslavement of their people. Only by recognising this can we begin to build solutions that address ‘climate justice’.

"If the UK is serious about its global climate responsibilities it has to stop subsidising fossil fuels and provide necessary resources to those whose lives will be most affected by this climate crisis.”

Wealth tax to fund Covid recovery

Sunday also saw Molly Scott Cato, Spokesperson for Finance and Economy, set out proposals for a tax on the country’s wealthiest elites to fund a green recovery from Covid. The tax would apply to financial wealth, including stocks and shares and bonds, but would exclude pension investments. 

The proposed tax will sit alongside other forms of taxes on wealth that already form part of Green Party policy, including a tax on the value of land, and is designed to tackle rising inequality. The proposals do not, however, commit to a specific threshold for the tax or to a specific rate, instead promising to consult with relevant stakeholders to identify a workable policy. Crucially, the proposed wealth tax would be accompanied by capital controls to prevent the rich from simply taking their wealth elsewhere.

Commenting on the motion, Molly said: “The Government’s promises on ‘levelling up’ ring hollow while they allow a tiny, extremely rich elite to increase their personal wealth at the expense of everyone else. 

“During the pandemic, the wealth of the world’s ten richest men rose by £400 billion, an amount that could pay for vaccines for the entire world. While ever more people are forced to use food banks and are unable to afford their energy bills, owners and shareholders of global corporations have banked their gains from profiteering during the pandemic.

“A wealth tax on even just the richest one per cent could raise as much as £43 billion, which could then go into funding a Green New Deal and create the millions of high-skilled green jobs that will ensure our Covid recovery is good for equality as well as good for the climate."