24/02/2013 16:12 GMT | Updated 26/04/2013 06:12 BST

The Environmental Crisis Is an Economic Opportunity

All too often I'm told - usually by journalists - that now's not the time to raise environmental issues. And of course it is tough for voters not sure where tomorrow's lunch money or next week's rent is coming from to think beyond those pressing personal problems, but the fact is there are many immediate environmental issues that demand our attention now.

And there doesn't have to be a choice made between dealing with the economy and dealing with the environment - many of the solutions go together. With austerity clearly not working, we need to invest in the future, to invest in renewable energy and energy conservation and in public transport.

Take insulating our dreadfully drafty, poorly insulated housing stock: investment in fixing that will reduce heating bills and fuel poverty, will cut carbon emissions, and create quality, stable jobs. Or look at renewable energy: Britain, with its rich natural wind and tidal resources should be leading in this field, taking our existing workforce skills and building and developing them - yet the government's poorly thought-through Energy Bill is failing to give the certainty investors need to develop the industries.

The Tory promise of being the "greenest government ever" is now an almost forgotten sick joke, yet the Labour Party is failing to speak up on the environmental issues. Indeed, when Ed Miliband gave his Autumn Conference speech last year, he entirely 'forgot' to mention the environment. It's so important to him, that after he's spent weeks carefully memorizing all of the speech, that that was the part - the entire topic of the environment - that slipped his attention.

Yet we only have to look around us here in Britain, look at the statistics, look at the fields, look at the woods, to see that this 'green and pleasant land' is groaning under the strain of human exploitation.

Scientists tell us that hedgehog numbers declined by over a third in just the past decade. Moths are fast disappearing - three species extinct in Britain this century after 62 last century. And sparrows - remember city sparrows? They used to be plentiful. And of course the immediate environmental degradation that we see all around us in Britain is only a tiny part of a much bigger story - the despoliation of the earth, the threatening of our very future by anthropogenic climate change.

It is just about 1,0000 days until COP 21 - the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. That's when we're supposed to have an agreement to replace Kyoto, to come into effect by 2020.

Yet we know that we must act today, tomorrow and the day after - take immediate, direct, swift action. In practical terms in Britain we know that we must now pass a fit-for-purpose Energy Bill - get serious about renewable energy and energy conservation.

And we must abandon the mad idea of fracking - smashing the very ground under our feet, using vast quantities of water to pollute our water tables, creating 1,000s of lorry movements across our countryside. The independent Committee on Climate Change tells us we can't frack and meet our legally binding emissions targets - but we also can't afford to ruin our countryside, damage tourism and farming, and our quality of life - for this anyway uncertain prospect.

In British politics it's only the Green Party that gets climate change - has the ideas, the plans, the vision, to create a low-carbon, jobs-rich economy. And in the coming years - with the county council elections in May and the European elections next year - we have the chance to convince voters that we can fix our economic and environmental crises together - that this isn't an either-or choice, but an essential pairing.