By Maggie Chapman

Climate breakdown is grabbing media headlines like never before.

We keep being told we have just 11 years to act; 11 years to take the decisive action necessary to prevent catastrophe. And we are seeing young people and grass-roots movements stealing the political thunder from green parties that have long been arguing for a different kind of world.

Over the last 30 years or so, we as greens have often wondered why, given the importance of having a living planet, there has not been the necessary action taken by governments, businesses, organisations and individuals to tackle climate change. I think most of the answer is that those necessary actions have been seen as costs. So many people have assumed that the actions required to tackle climate breakdown are all about self-denial and loss. But the reality couldn’t be further from this.

We have the opportunity to create a better world: a world where we do not damage our life support systems and fellow species; but one where we sustain them and, at the same time, create fulfilling and enriching lives for ourselves. And we do this with an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few.

Scottish Greens believe we must seize this opportunity and set out a positive vision of how tackling the climate crisis can be transformative, how it can create thousands of lasting jobs, how it can reverse social inequalities and how it can create an economy in which everyone has a stake and gets a fair share of the benefits.

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Our idea of a Green New Deal seeks to do just this. Like the original New Deal, it aims to get us out of the economic mess we face. But it also helps us avoid climate breakdown.

With an ambitious policy programme that uses the powers available to us now (and those which independence would bring), we could move quickly out of the fossil fuel age by directing public investment to reduce emissions and make the economy fairer. Investing in renewable technologies will generate good jobs, allow for warmer homes, and produce significant economic benefit.

We know that investing in technology reduces in cost the more we do it. And we know that the kinds of technological transformations that are possible can help us tackle our carbon emissions. Scotland met its climate targets set a decade ago not because the emissions trading systems worked very well, but because of the successes of renewables: they far exceeded expectations. If we applied this approach to a massive transformation away from all dirty fuels, we could end up not with a world that costs us more and delivers worse but costs us less and delivers more. That is the aim of the Green New Deal.

And, while we are doing things, we will be creating loads of other benefits too. If we look at zero-emission vehicles: we know they reduce carbon. But they also reduce the toxic nitrogen oxides and particulate matters that cause so many health problems. Shifting our economy in this way means we not only tackle climate breakdown, but also reduce the other costs of dealing with the consequences of dirty air.

We are on the verge of enormous technological change. With the political will galvanised by our young people and climate movements, we can use this transformation to create a very different world, not only in terms of clean energy, but in how we function as humans in society. Another aspect of the Green New Deal will be to harness the opportunities in automation, to free up our time to do the things that bring us joy as humans. We are so good at caring, creating and co-operating, and these are exactly the things that cannot be automated. But we rarely have the time to focus on these aspects of life. Imagine if we could transform our workplaces so we all had more time to focus on the things that make us human?

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We have an opportunity to change the course of our future. And we have the opportunity to make Scotland a world leader in change for the better. We must seize this opportunity – the opportunity that the declaration of a climate emergency offers – to create a different kind of economy that allows liveable futures for us all. And our politics needs to change to reflect this too. Citizens’ assemblies (a key demand of Extinction Rebellion) on our future world must be a part of this.

So, as individuals, our political choices matter. Later this month, Scots will vote in the European elections. We need to tackle the climate emergency beyond borders. As long as Scotland remains part of the EU – indefinitely I hope – we must strive for collective action. A vote for me as the first Scottish Green MEP will help spread a green wave across Europe so can address the urgency of the climate crisis with a vision of hope for our shared future.

There is much to be optimistic about. George Monbiot recently said that the youth climate strikes have given him the belief, for the first time in years, that we can turn things around and that climate breakdown and ecological collapse are not inevitable. That belief – that hope – is what we, as Greens, seek to turn into reality.

Maggie Chapman is the Scottish Greens’ lead candidate in the upcoming EU elections.