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Dear Labour: Stop wasting time, and join us in a progressive alliance

A one-off alliance could kick the Tories out of power. 

This week, after a seemingly endless campaign, the Labour party will choose its new leader. For those of us who oppose what the Conservative Government is doing to our country, the end of this bitter internal battle within the Labour party can’t come a moment too soon. We need everyone playing their part in providing effective opposition and holding Theresa May to account.

On Friday 23 September, we launched our Green Guarantee to set out our role in that: a promise to members, voters and supporters about what it means to be Green. And at the heart of that promise is a new politics of public service that combines honest, consistent and principled Green opposition, with a willingness to do things differently and search for bold solutions.

We also have a message for the new Labour leader - stop wasting precious time on what divides you and instead invest in cooperation.  Join us in making a persuasive case for doing things differently by looking to the future, not to the past. Commit to a progressive alliance

With a snap general election looking increasingly unlikely, it seems Britain now faces three and a half years of a Conservative Government run by a Prime Minister who has, so far, done nothing to indicate she has a grasp on how to rise to the challenges we face. How to build a new resilient economy that values relationships rather than transactions. How to create a community immigration premium and the strong social connections that would allow us all to benefit from free movement. How to deliver smart, future facing, properly funded public services run by the people for the people. Nor has she risen to the biggest challenge of all - a world unlimited by climate change.  

A one-off general election alliance between progressive parties to try to prevent the Conservatives forming the next government could be a game change. That’s why our Green Guarantee contains a pledge to cooperate rather than compete, if it will deliver the best future for Britain.

Such an alliance is, critically, also an opportunity to unite behind a pledge to replace our outdated voting system with a citizens’ democracy. In 2015 more than 1m people voted Green and they deserve to have their views represented in Parliament by more than one MP. Almost 2m voted Lib Dem and yet they have just eight seats, while almost 4m Ukip votes claimed one MP. If we want a future where decisions are negotiated, not imposed, where power and wealth are redistributed, fair elections are essential. And if we genuinely want to heal the divisions revealed by the EU referendum campaign, to tackle the fear, inequality and hopelessness that’s been laid bare, we need every voice to be heard and every vote to matter.  

Taking back control means having a second referendum on the terms of any EU deal. It means we need to be clear what we would like our future relationship with the EU to look like, what we'll be negotiating for, and Parliament having a full debate and vote on triggering Article 50. And it means a general election to decide who delivers the deal. 

Our Green Guarantee puts the principle of working together to solve common problems at the heart of any agreement – we still think this is the best way to protect our environment, workers’ rights and free movement. In this age of insecurity, collaboration and partnership matter more than ever before. 

They also underpin the innovative Green economy of tomorrow. A sharing and participative economy where the exploitative Uber model gives way to a taxi firm owned by drivers and passengers. An economy for the digital age where modern technology and a universal basic income allows us to live larger lives, and where work is about real purpose, not a means to an end. An economy that’s jobs rich, energy efficient and really means business.   

Our Green Guarantee is that, as co-leaders of the Green party, we will embrace the rapidly changing uncertain world in which we live, not turn from it. Be brave enough to map the future, not simply react to it. We invite whoever is elected as the new leader of the Labour party to do the same.

Jonathan Bartley and Caroline Lucas are co-leaders of the Green party.

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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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