Why I joined the Green Party

Rob SmithI had no intention of joining a political party, or of being politically active beyond voting.
In June 2018 I was trying to measure my carbon footprint. When it came to emissions from my car, it was hard to find out how much CO2 a litre of petrol of diesel emitted. Online figures varied. It occurred to me that it would be much simpler if my petrol station receipt said
Today you bought 50 litres of diesel. This will release 131 Kg of CO2.
Similar information applied to domestic fuels such as gas, electricity, heating oil and coal would help everyone understand their carbon footprint.
I wrote to our MP, who was supportive and put me in touch with the civil service department. The civil servants were positive and the discussion progressed. But problems started to be identified – apparently oil companies might not know the CO2 emitted, and customers would find this confusing. I responded that if food manufacturers could label the calorie content of their food, energy companies could label the carbon content. And then the door shut. I was told that “This was not government policy”. The government preferred to concentrate on what people drove, not how much CO2 they emitted.
And that’s when it dawned on me. Government environmental policy wasn’t about actually solving environmental problems. It was about solving re-election problems, by doing just enough to appear sufficiently environmental that everyone didn’t vote Green. That day I joined The Green Party.
I attended a Green Party conference. It was there that I learned that environmental concerns and social concerns go hand-in-hand. We can’t create a world that is fair and equitable without ensuring a liveable climate, and we can’t achieve a liveable climate without creating a world that is fair to all. This resonated with messages I’d heard through aid organisations. Of all the political parties, their message made the most sense.
I realised that my personal carbon footprint was irrelevant if I did not try and change attitudes around me. The multiplying effect of my behaviour change on those around me, encouraging them to cut their carbon, was more important than my individual contribution. And standing for election, first in County elections and then successfully in town council elections, has made more of a difference than any individual action.
Rob Smith is a Councillor on Lyme Regis Town Council