Green MEP Alexandra Phillips has become the latest Green MEP to launch a report on a Green New Deal this week, outlining the transformative potential of radical investment in the green economy for the South East of England.
Following the publication of Green MEP Gina Dowding's report for the North West of England, Phillips' report focuses on two regions in the South East dealing with high unemployment, fuel poverty and Brexit uncertainty: Dover and the Isle of Wight.
Phillips said: “A Green New Deal is essential now if we are tackle climate emergency.‘More than that, it’s instrumental in providing jobs, taking people out of fuel poverty and improving life for everyone.
“Governments are reluctant to make the dramatic changes required – the kind of environmentalism the Tories are using as an election mandate doesn’t even touch the sides of the issues at hand.
“Our report highlights yet again the need for drastic action on a local, national and European level.”
A seriously Green New Deal, Phillips argues, has to focus on investing in young people while being totally inclusive of women, people of colour, the LGBTQI+ community and those with disabilities.
Phillips has just finished a five-day tour of the South East region – a constituency including nine counties and a population the size of Sweden – during which she met with residents, local Green Parties and activists to discuss how to address the climate emergency.
Travelling across the region in a fully electric tour bus, Phillips and her team launched the report on the Isle of Wight on Monday (28 October) during a panel discussion with local Green Party parliamentary candidate, Vix Lowthion. Tuesday (29 October) saw her launch the report in Dover during an event organised by the Dover and Deal Green Party.
The report, which is available to read on Phillips’ website, looks at how the climate crisis can be tackled via the creation of new green jobs and investment in clean energy. Not simply a pack of environmental policies, it also looks at social justice, focusing largely on employment and fuel poverty.
Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight has large pockets of deprivation alongside more affluent areas, with lack of employment really causing the brunt of the problems. It’s in the bottom third most deprived local authorities in England, and when it comes to employment, education, training and skills deprivation, it’s in the top 20 most deprived local authorities in England.
Fuel poverty is also a huge issue, with 39 deaths in 2016/17 being recorded as excess winter deaths – a 225 per cent increase on the year before. Vulnerable people are having to choose between putting food on the table or heating their homes, despite the abundance of natural fuel resources on the Isle of Wight, which lacks the technology or political will to utilize it.
The report recommends:
Invest in natural resources: A Green New Deal would see 100 megawatts of renewable energy being generated on the Isle of Wight, investment in tidal power and an end to the ban on onshore wind.
Create thousands of green jobs: It would quadruple the number of green jobs on the island within 13 years, providing hundreds more jobs in training and supporting a new green workforce, ensuring a genuine living wage and long-term security.
Dover is Europe's busiest passenger port, handling over 12 million passengers and 2.5 million road haulage vehicles last year alone, and as such will be uniquely impacted by Brexit. Any form of departure from the EU will likely cause severe delays, employment issues and significant changes.
Dover is also experiencing an empty home problem. There are 6,000 empty homes across Kent – including 470 in Dover, according to government statistics from 2018.
The report makes the following recommendations:
Repopulate Dover’s empty homes: Research carried out by the Scottish and Welsh Governments found that for every £1 spent on bringing empty homes back into use, around £1.60 was generated in the local economy. Margate and Kent Councils invested £23 million to bring 300 homes back into use, a third of which became council homes. If £35 million was invested in bringing Dover’s 470 homes back into use, that would generate at least £56 million in the local economy.
Demand all transportation to run on renewable energy: Taking pressure off the roads as more freight turns to rail and ensuring that vehicles that are left on the road are carbon neutral, investing in better buses, e-bikes, less polluting ferries and lorries.
Brexit: Staying in Europe is the best shot of getting a Green New Deal for the South East of England and ensures that the area doesn’t unfairly pay the price for a crash out.
A local revolution
Phillips continued: “A Green New Deal could completely revolutionise areas like Dover and the Isle of Wight by repopulating empty homes and introducing thousands of new jobs and training opportunities. Unfortunately, the current political crisis has overshadowed any talk of making the lives of ordinary people any better at a local level.
“Against the backdrop of Brexit, it's easy to lose perspective on our most important fight: that of climate breakdown. A Green New Deal is the best way to combat this.”
Alexandra Phillips is Green MEP for the South East of England region.