Molly Scott Cato: To stop the climate crisis, we need to fix the UK’s crisis of democracy

We need a political system where the climate-focused parties stand a real chance of succeeding says Molly Scott Cato.

Though the vaccine roll-out gives us hope, our country is still reeling from the catastrophic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the past year, far too many people have been devastated by the sickness and death of loved ones, our communities have become fragmented, and thousands of workers have been stripped of their jobs and livelihoods. On top of this, the effects of climate change is omnipresent.

So when the Tories trumpeted their promises of “levelling up” at the G7 Summit ahead of it taking place on 11-13 June, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one that struggled to take them at their word.

On Boris Johnson’s watch, powerful private interests could get their way on Heathrow Airport’s expansion, the HS2 project will continue to bulldoze through our woodlands, and his ministers will continue to green-light damaging plans like the biggest ever road-building programme and plans to build a motorway under one of Britain’s most treasured heritage sites.

With their appalling track record on environmental issues, is this really a government that will invest in the green infrastructure and jobs that our country so desperately needs? 

As we look to the future with renewed hope, the project of rebuilding the economy gives us the opportunity for a long-lasting and radical rethink. Now, if ever, is the time to take meaningful action.

Unfortunately, with the same old political system, I’m afraid we may continue to see the same results: pumping out some 350 million tonnes of carbon every year and repeatedly failing to meet our legally binding emissions targets. Our failing political system is seeing us left behind as other countries move into a bright, green future.

To place due pressure on the UK government to put green energy and infrastructure at the centre of their economic plans, we need a political system where the climate-focused parties stand a real chance of succeeding.

Countries including Sweden and New Zealand, and Germany, represented at the G7 Summit, all use proportional electoral systems, and have been much quicker to act on climate change. With voters able to vote with both their hearts and their heads, Green MPs are a significant presence in each of these parliaments, occasionally becoming junior coalition partners in government.

More than this, the fact that these Green Parties are genuine electoral contenders has pushed more mainstream parties in countries with PR to take issues such as climate change, wildlife and animal rights more seriously. 

As Britain strives to ‘build back better’ and ‘level up’, I can’t think of a better time for climate and our natural world to be at the forefront of our plans.

The Tories can’t be trusted to build a green economy, they’ll always put private interests before public gain and nothing will change so long as our voting system remains so undemocratic that a majority of people can vote for parties that have no power. And that means breaking out of the two-party straitjacket of the first-past-the-post electoral system.

Action on climate change can’t wait any longer. That’s why I support Make Votes Matter, the campaign for Proprotional Representation for Westminster elections, and encourage people to sign their petition calling on MPs to support PR.

By writing to your local MP, you can help send a clear message that the political system in this country must change now. First Past the Post has been disastrous for our environment. With Proportional Representation, the future in our country can be better, brighter and much, much greener.

Molly Scott Cato is a former Green Party MEP for the South West and Economics Professor.

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