‘Use your voice to continue to learn and grow’ – Interview with Hannah Graham for Talent Prep Academy

The Talent Prep Academy is on a mission to provide Gen Z & Millennials with the tools to become leaders in Careers & the Future Economy. I was lucky enough to be interviewed by Shayne Tshabalala (pictured below), the academy’s founder for one if its inaugural interviews.

Can you describe a bit about your journey to your career today? Where you’ve worked and where you are working now, and how you navigated that path?

Currently, I work as Advocacy Manager at the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. My roles involve leading on the delivery and scale-up of the advocacy and community action strategy for the Girl Powered Nutrition (GPN) programme, empowering young women and girls to take action and speak out about malnutrition to influence decision-makers on a local, national and global scale.

It’s been an interesting journey to get here, and my interests weren’t always in politics. After arriving at Teesside University at 18 to study Computer Science with no interest in politics and with very little international and travelling experience, I came across the Students’ Union during my induction period. The following day my Course Leader announced that there were to be two course representatives to represent the cohort in discussions with the University and Students’ Union, and that they were to be one female, and one male representative. Being the only female on the course, I was instantly and unwillingly given the title.

Now, if I had known then what I know now about the fact that gender isn’t binary and this method excludes non-binary identities, I would have challenged this approach. At the time, I was a young, fresh-faced and naive undergrad who only really wanted to focus on my studies and nothing else. Nevertheless, I was committed to fulfil my duties and on my first meeting with the Students’ Union the first question I was asked was why I wanted to be the course representative for my class. I responded with dumbfoundment and reiterated the scenario from the appointment process in class. The Students’ Union were shocked by this revelation and in just a few short weeks of being a course representative I realised that as a student you can shape your education, and given the right opportunity people will listen.

That opened up a world of new possibilities which if we fast forward a few years led to me representing my University and speaking on behalf of my fellow students at NUS Conference, and then becoming Vice President of my Students’ Union just a few years later. I soon learnt that my real passion was in policy which led to me working for various campaigning and advocacy roles in Higher Education and the youth and voluntary sectors before moving to a more humanitarian and international development based role at WAGGGS which gives me the opportunity to not just develop young women and girls, but also travel the world.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced getting into your career and how did you overcome these challenges?

  • Ageism in the workplace: I think this is definitely something that will relate to many young people entering the workplace. When I worked in the Students’ Union and Higher Education world, especially as an elected officer I would face continous ageism from older staff members and University officials during meetings, conferences etc. I would overcome this by continuing to remind myself that even though it was sensitive, it was important to never let my age become an issue and if someone else made it an issue I was prepared to speak up and challenge others. I would always try to divert a conversation back to my innovative and fresh ideas and remind others that innovation is an asset, not a liability.
  • Moving to London: This was definitely a huge challenge for me for many reasons. Over-stimulation, saturation of opportunity and difficulty in channeling my skills into a path that was really right for me was very hard. I overcame this by surrounding myself with a great network of people and activities. I became a member of my local Green Party which enabled me to meet many different people with similar values and I would spend my weekends canvassing, campaigning or just going for a drink, well needed after a week in the city.
  • Career pivoting: In the 21st century, for many different reasons people are changing jobs more frequently than ever before and many also choose to make a complete career change or new path. I never really experienced this when I lived in the North of England as job loyalty definitely still exists there, but in London people seem to change jobs, friends and houses every three months! This took a while to get used to, and I do believe that loyalty still counts to a certain extent, but ultimately if you’re not happy in a role or don’t visualise any progression, pack up, pick yourself up and move on.

Can you tell us any tips and hacks you use to find and get jobs?

I would say that LinkedIn is a total blessing when it comes to finding a job. 87% of recruiters use LinkedIn as part of their candidate search. I sign up for email updates related to key words like policy, or advocacy and get notifications whenever there is a new job posted. You can let recruiters know that you’re available, just at the click of a button, and this isn’t shared with the wider world so your current employer need not know.

Build your network, everyone you come into contact with in a professional sense, don’t be afraid to connect with them. I think it’s definitely more impersonal than Facebook so people are 9 times out of 10 willing to connect. The trick is to also constantly update your profile on a weekly basis, and you’ll stay at the top of search results, and you’ll appear more active. I even use LinkedIn to research interviewers, or even my potential future boss before an interview.

Another tip is if there is a selection of organisations who you would like to work for, or even your dream to work for these companies – monitor them. Even if you’re not currently looking, sign up for job updates and monitor the salaries or ongoing job vacancies to gain a picture of what the hiring processes and organisation looks like ahead of time. Then when it comes to you applying for a job in the future, you’re first off the mark to getting your application in and you already know how long the previous person has been in the role and how long they take to recruit.

One final tip is think about what else can you do outside of your work that gives you relevant experience and ‘the edge’ over other candidates for future applications. Could you be a school governor, a charity trustee, volunteer for an organisation outside work etc? There are websites that you can register your preferences for who will do all the hard work and place you in an opportunity outside work that suits your interests.

Do you have any advice for Generation Z and Millennials entering the job market?

I think this generation has much more of an entrepreneurial spirit than the last, as the younger generation have grown up through the recession and have got a slightly different outlook on life. This is really great, and that spirit will ensure that people speak up when working practices aren’t to their preference, or when there’s something they disagree with, and they won’t settle for a poor work/life balance.

I think it’s so important to speak up and ask as many questions as possible, an interview is a two way conversation – if you ask questions and even challenge an employer in an interview you will appear interesting and invaluable to a performing team. It’s important you use your voice to continue to learn and grow. It’s much better than staying silent and making a mistake or an inaccurate assumption.

Any parting advice or final words?

I think some final advice from me is don’t worry too much if you’re not sure where you want to be in 10 years or what you’re looking for. I’ve learned that it’s ok to move around a bit if you find yourself in a job you’re not sure about. You don’t need to (and won’t) have it all figured out straight away, but you do have to put in the time and effort to be rewarded and that unfortunately, sometimes takes years.

Questions posed by London Green Party members post-hustings

After the London Assembly hustings, I answered these questions asked to me by London Green Party members. I have removed their names to protect their identities. They are now published here for all members to read. Please feel free to ask me a question

Many music venues face closure in London due to business rates or noise abatement orders what will you do to support and protect grassroots music in the city?

I support the Green Party’s policy on redistribution of wealth in the music industry, rebalancing the relationship between cultural ‘superstars’ and smaller artists. In a vibrant city such as London, it’s important to explore the feasibility of a tax on these superstar performances which is hypothecated to local cultural enterprises. This would pay for licensing and business rate relief for smaller and more independent venues. In terms of noise abatement orders, there should be clear differentiation between the noise pollution from large multiplex venues and small, independent, local venues.

What are the cultural opportunities from closing London city airport? How can we use the space in an interesting way like Tempelhof park in Berlin?

I have yet to visit the Tempelhof park in Berlin however I have heard great things. Among the obvious benefits in less air travel and carbon emissions, there are also vast cultural opportunities from closing London City Airport. The space could be transformed into a cultural hub including a mixture of community services and activities for all ages. Community housing organisations, local and independent businesses, permanent markets & pop up stores, community schools, youth clubs and faith organisations would enable people to live amongst others, sharing exciting and interesting services with their neighbours. Also, it’s important to include plenty of green spaces and arts spaces such as an arts-hub with museums, theatres, galleries and studios. These are just ideas, but to sustain a space that continues to meet the needs of such a changing population, consultation and listening to the needs of London’s residents is important.

How will you support London’s vast night time economy?

Like my answer to the previous question around supporting and protecting grassroots music in the city, I support rebalancing the wealth by taxing the big, superstar performances and hypothecate this tax to local cultural enterprises. There should be a balance for resident needs and a choice of night time entertainments to enjoy. I welcome the report ‘Think Night: London’s Neighbourhoods from 6pm to 6am’ into London’s Night Time economy, outlining ways to use culture and business to boost local economies and help the capitals hard-up high streets. But I share concerns with current Assembly Member Caroline Russell in that the report fails to include recommendations on workers rights. Over half a million of people working at night are already paid below the London Living Wage, almost double the number of people working during the day. The Mayor should ensure clear guidelines and support to employers in the Night Time Economy to help pay their staff a decent wage and respect their rights to a decent contract, holiday and sick pay.

What developments do you wish to see in London’s cultural strategy?

I welcomed London’s Culture Strategy upon it’s launch earlier last year. It’s great that the Mayor is aiming to improve access and participation in culture and the arts for all Londoners. Culture and the creative industries contribute £47bn to London’s economy every year and account for one in six jobs in the capital. There’s some great plans listed in the strategy such as the introduction of small grants to be made available to individuals and organisations to support grassroots, cultural activity, reaching communities detached from grant or seed funding. However, I was disappointed not to see clear leadership from the Mayor on fair pay for those working in the creative industries. As I stated in the previous question, there should be clear guidelines and support to employers to ensure creative industry professionals can earn a decent living wage and their rights are respected.

Why in your view is The Green Party continuing to average around 1-2% in the polls and how will your approach as a candidate seek to address this?

It was incredible to see Sian clinch the third place in the London Mayor election last time, bringing the Green Party into the mainstream more than ever before. When we are door-knocking, we need to let people know on the door that we can win and talk about the successes of our local councillors and assembly members. We need to listen to the concerns of people in our communities, take their cases on board, then go back to them and deliver results.

We must make the Green Party relevant for ordinary people. Diverse candidates are great, but that must translate into diverse people being elected. To build trust and inspire others to get involved and tell us their concerns and problems, people must see people they relate to in elected positions.

Finally, we must stay radical, continuing to build links with campaigning groups in communities. Stansted 15, Anti-fracking groups, immigration detention campaigning groups. Let’s be bold in our vision and stay relevant, current and visibly radical.

The nuances of the London electoral system means that the Greens normally do well on the London-wide list for the Assembly. Do you believe that this will affect your campaign messaging and, if so, how will you explain what this means for the voters and how they should cast their London-wide vote?

It was brilliant to see the Greens retain two Assembly members last time round and to see massive gains for the Greens on local councils in the local elections last year. Due to this increasing success, it will be fantastic to see more Assembly members elected this time around. The proportional system benefits us as a smaller, but progressive party that people from other parties are likely to give 2nd and 3rd preferences to.

I believe we had such a strong campaign last year in the local elections as the campaign was decided centrally but delivered locally with unique and targeted issues depending on location in London. For the London-wide list, I see a similar model. The campaign should be decided centrally so I would follow the centralised messaging, with small tweaks to show my individuality and personality as a candidate. Personally, I can be an approachable and accessible candidate with a working-class background filled with personal anecdotes aimed to ensure my relatability to the residents of London.

As someone who is classifiable as a BME woman, but who does not see herself as representative of BME people and womankind, and who finds BME-only and female-only short lists, and BME and gender quotas, to be deeply problematic, I am interested to know what the candidates think of positive discrimination.

Rather than positive discrimination, I see these measures as positive action. Positive action is a way of changing society for the better, by making it more equal. Actively encouraging people with protected characteristics to roles will result in them succeeding. And evidence shows it works. The Labour Party’s implementation of all women shortlists has seen huge growth in the numbers of not just women, but people of all marginalised groups being elected, improving the overall representation of these groups in Parliament significantly.

I joined the Green Party because I wanted a more equal society. Even in 2019 we still only have 32% women MPs elected to the House of Commons, and only 8% of MPs are BME. When you intersect the two, only 4% of the House of Commons are both BME and women. We live in a society where people of marginalised groups are unfairly and systematically oppressed day-in, day-out – in political life, at work and in the home. All women shortlists, quotas and positive action is not about giving people an advantage, it’s about creating a level playing field and combatting the disadvantage that holds people back.

In Merton, we are fortunate to have 67 parks and nature conservation areas, but unfortunate to have a Labour-led council who have: (a) outsourced the management of our green spaces to a distinctly mediocre company; and (b) started allowing unsuitable events to be held in our green spaces. They say that they want to ‘sweat our assets’ because of ‘austerity’. What do you make of this behaviour, and how might the London Assembly help Mertonians to defend their right to have access to good quality public green spaces?

I am very concerned to hear of Merton Council’s outsourcing of the management and maintenance of Merton’s green spaces. I agree with the local Friends of Parks groups, the overall funding for parks is already very low, compared to other boroughs in London – reducing it further will harm the quality of Merton’s open spaces. I admire the efforts of Merton Green Party in campaigning against the proposed events for Morden Park including festivals and parties. I support the campaign to protect residents, other park users, wildlife (particularly owls and kestrels) from harm. I am in favour of the call to the Council to draw up a policy in consultation with residents, setting out what types of events are suitable for its major parks, in order that the right balance can be struck between generating revenue, maintaining residents’ ability to enjoy green spaces, and protecting wildlife. I think this is an admirable step that Council’s in other boroughs could follow.

With young people feeling undervalued and often voiceless in both society and politics, what would you prioritize to support young people in London? 

At the hustings, all candidates talked a lot about youth services. Why? Because they are bloody important! Young people deserve a choice of opportunities to be safe, and away from harm. Young people deserve a clean, safe and sustainable environment in which to thrive. I work at UK Youth, the largest national youth charity supporting young people to campaign on issues that matter to them. I see first-hand the devastating effects of austerity against young people and the working class daily.

I support a young girl currently, who has lived her whole life with a chronic disability. Vulnerable to bullying, ill mental health and exploitation. All of this left her open to threat. She was raped by a family member at a very young age but through youth services we have helped her overcome barriers, find work and apply to University. Youth services exist because of years of Government and local authority cuts. The Mayors £45million Young Londoners Fund is but a scratch on the surface. Finally, young people should be on decision making bodies about issues that affect them and have the power to influence change. I would establish a youth advisory board made up of the capital’s local authorities, youth service providers and their beneficiaries.

Given London’s chronic housing crisis, what are the candidates’ solutions, specifically in relation to renting, which disproportionately effects Londoners from a lower socio-economic background?

London like many other capital cities is undergoing a crisis with its housing. But Londoners face the highest rates in Europe. Everybody deserves the right to an affordable, safe place to live. The housing market is stacked in favour of landlords and investors who profit at our expense. Our rigged housing system is making our city more unequal.

Rent controls should be introduced to stunt the growth in house prices and limit the amount of ‘affordable housing’ that can be purchased by international investors trading on gig economy market sites such as Airbnb. For the homeless, I would campaign for the many empty buildings in London to become open accommodation for the thousands of rough sleepers in London, this is especially important in such cold weather. I would also lobby the London Assembly to formally support the London Renters Union (of whom I am a member) to ensure that renters get organised, support each other, stand up to landlords and speak with a collective voice to win lower rents, longer tenancies and better housing for everyone.

Could the mayor and assembly narrow the wide distribution of income in London and the UK?

Even in 2019, and despite the Mayor’s efforts to increase the London Living Wage to £10.55 per hour, up to a fifth of Londoners earn less than the living wage. Low pay contributes to poverty which contributes to poorer health in London. The people most likely to be low paid are those with low-level qualifications, ethnic minorities, young people, those over 50, women and part-time workers.

As a London Assembly member, I would first encourage more organisations and employers to adopt not just the London Living Wage, but the Real Living Wage, which is independently calculated and based on the cost of living, rather than the minimum. I’d also encourage training and skills development to help those in low-paid jobs progress up the labour market.

What is your position on Brexit and would you push for a People’s Vote and then campaign for Remain if selected?

Very simply, my position on Brexit is that I am faultlessly pro-remain. I campaigned hard in the run up to the 2016 referendum with Green campaigns and pro-remain groups and I was devastated on the morning of the result. I voted by postal vote as I was visiting my Swedish partner in Umeå, north of Sweden on the day of the vote and was returning home the next day. I remember going to bed feeling positive but waking up with the feeling of huge existential dread and worry, not just for the future of the UK, but also for my journey flying home that day.

In the two years since the result was announced, I have tirelessly campaigned for a second referendum, a People’s Vote to ensure we have a right to say what makes up the final deal. I have campaigned with groups both in and out of the Green Party and have been able to deliver rallying speeches at events such as the People’s Vote marches in London. I have been impressed with how Caroline Lucas has truly led and pioneered the campaign and as an issue very personal to me, with my EU national partner now living in the UK, it’s an issue that will continue to be a priority.

Some candidates allude specifically to the unquestionable need for more housing, particularly social and affordable housing. My concerns are that, often, large-scale developments are in direct conflict with environmental objectives. Have you/will you consider improved legislation and regulation around planning and development to ensure that the much-needed developments also maintain and preferably increase our city’s green infrastructure and environmental credentials?

With homelessness drastically on the rise and more people renting than ever before, it’s vital that some drastic changes are made to tackle London’s housing crisis. Rent controls, monitoring of rogue landlords and opening empty buildings for rough sleepers are all necessary to help tackle the growing problem. London needs more affordable housing with restrictions on purchases to ensure that young people, families and people in need of affordable housing can access it.

But I agree, these measures shouldn’t weaken or hinder our green infrastructure and environmental credentials. Social housing is being put in direct competition with green space, causing conflict between two of the most important issues in the capital. Green spaces that are a public and social good should be protected and cherished. Perhaps improved regulation around the minimum percentage of green space in each borough could be considered, to mitigate endless planning applications to build on parks, allotments and greens. Research shows that contrary to claims by developers, building on green spaces did ‘virtually nothing’ to address the crisis of affordability of housing, especially for young people. We need stronger and more efficient regulation of protected green spaces to ensure irreparable damage to the London’s protected land.

A positive force for young people: Hannah Graham, candidate for Green London Assembly list

In 2020, London will go to the polls to elect a new Mayor and members of the London Assembly. The London Green Party are now in the process of selecting their candidates for those elections. Bright Green is offering every candidate seeking selection an opportunity to tell our readers why they should be selected. One of these candidates is Hannah Graham, and this is what she has to say:

[Cross-post from Bright Green. Read the original article here]

The last few years have seen a remarkable shift in the success of the Green Party in London. This is not only down to the hard work and commitment of our activists, but also the quality and diversity of our candidates. Our candidates have not only become more representative of London’s population, but also more relatable and relevant to our capital. We absolutely must continue to develop in this way to move forward as a party, building relationships and working alongside community groups in order to remain the best and most radical choice for London’s voters. It’s vital we select candidates who understand the true diversity of experiences found in our capital city.

My background

I joined the Green Party back in 2014 because it was the only party liberating the marginalised, championing diversity and giving a platform to people like me: a working class young woman from rural Lincolnshire. I grew up attending my local youth club and was devastated when lack of funding meant it had to close. The place that offered me essential life skills, a supportive network of peers and the place that believed in me when my school teachers didn’t.

Nevertheless, I made it to University and it was defending Free Education on campus that inspired and compelled me to take action against the growing inter-generational and cultural divides in our society. I stood as parliamentary candidate in Middlesbrough in 2015, achieving 4.3% of the vote and standing as the first Green candidate.

I challenged the ever incumbent Labour Party in the region, holding them to account for decades of complacency and poor decision making. I look forward to providing the same scrutiny if elected to City Hall.

Since moving to London around 3 years ago, I have been an active campaigner in Islington, working to re-elect our sole Green Councillor on Islington Council and only narrowly missing out on electing two more in Highbury East. I stood as a candidate myself in Caledonian ward in the 2018 Local Elections, achieving 3.3% of the vote.

In the last year, I have served as Young Greens Co-Chair, co-leading the youth and student wing of the Green Party of England and Wales. In this role I held a seat on the Green Party Executive (GPEx) and acted as a lead spokesperson for the Young Greens on press and media enquiries. I’m proud to have co-authored our 2017 Youth Manifesto and to have led a well-regarded training scheme – ’30 under 30’, equipping thirty of our most promising young members with the skills to take their next plunge in the world of Green politics. Last year, I also co-founded the Young Greens Candidate Community, a support network designed to encourage and elect more young people to public office.

As a Policy Manager and Youth Worker at one of the UK’s largest youth charities, I know full well the effects of years of austerity targeting our youth services and I witness daily the impact of these cuts on our young people. The tragic cumulative loss of up to £145 million that has been snatched away from our young people’s hands in the last 7 years is a far cry from the recent £45 million fund announced by the Mayor last year. Whilst this is welcomed, it only scratches the surface of the total that has been lost and is often out of reach of the smaller, locally run organisations that have felt the strain the hardest.

What I would do for London

Early intervention of skills-based programmes and a full, standardised youth service are the key to putting right some of these wrongs. The work of Sian Berry in highlighting the effects of years of austerity and becoming successful in reinstating £45 million of this funding is a phenomenal achievement.

But there’s still work to do. The rising pressures on youth and education services for young people in London are now at a critical level, resulting in a knife crime epidemic as the Mayor fails to face up to the blood that is on his hands. We must work to ensure young people are occupied, away from harm, aware of the wider world and their impact on it, and able to form their identities in a safe place supported by trusted adults. We need to understand and recognise the strengths and needs of our young people, working in partnership with community groups to raise their ambitions and steer them away from violent crime.

I believe in sustainability, in social equality and investing in the future of our young people.

It’s high time that politicians view and treat young people as assets rather than problems to be solved. I’ve always been a champion of youth empowerment and believe in giving young people the power to shape their own lives. As a Green candidate, I would be in a privileged position to tackle this problem by lobbying for the Mayor’s Youth Londoners fund to reinstate the entirety of the cuts to our vital services. I’d also create an advisory board made up of London’s youth services and their beneficiaries to ensure that any measures proposed do meet, and are able to adapt to, the ever-changing needs of London’s youth.

My experience makes me the perfect candidate to be a vibrant, positive force to fight for young people in our capital. I am proud to have nominations from a whole host of great campaigners in the city and ask for you to put your faith in me to join our current members in City Hall. Please consider placing me as first preference on the Green Party London Assembly list and I will work tirelessly to increase our Green vote share in time for 2020.

Hannah Graham is a Green Party activist based in London. She was Co-Chair of the Young Greens from 2017-2018. She has been an active part of youth and student movements, currently working for UK Youth and previously having been an elected Sabbatical Officer at Teeside University Students’ Union, and a member of the NUS National Executive Committee.

Questions posed by members of Brent Green Party

Ahead of the London Assembly hustings, I answered these questions asked to me by Brent Green Party members. I have removed their names to protect their identities. They are now published here for all members to read. Please feel free to ask me a question.

Have you read the new IPCC report, or even the summary for policy makers and created an action plan for how you, as my elected spokesperson, can best represent scientists’ recommendations to limit greenhouse gas emissions to 1.5 degrees with accessible recommendations to your constituents and party representatives?

I will admit I haven’t read the whole IPCC report, however on your recommendation I have read the summary for policy makers. I think a really accessible campaign and action that constituents can do is the divestment movement. Constituents can approach their workplace management about divesting their energy usage away from fossil fuels. The successes could be tracked on a borough wide level to encourage other authorities to do the same.

I saw a youth with 2 friends chuck a bag of mostly plastic rubbish in front of a car on Kilburn High Road recently which subsequently went everywhere. What campaign strategy will you use to make this behaviour less cool and help such individuals want to become part of the solution?

Outside of the Green Party, I currently work for UK Youth, the UK’s largest national youth charity. As a youth worker I believe early intervention of skills-based programmes and a full standardised youth service are the key to ensure young people are occupied, aware of the wider world and their impact on it, and able to form their identities in a safe place supported by trusted adults.

Will you have a section on your local website showing links to organisations that help people reduce their footprint and will you encourage such links on the national website too?

Thanks for this question, I think it’s a really good idea! Some simple ideas could be: links on the TfL and national rail site, car sharing stations, carbon offsetting charities in London, bike hangar locations, bicycle rental stations, recycling stations, linnks to sustainable brands, cosmetics etc). But it’s not just about encouraging green party members to do extra bits (as many of us are ecologically conscious anyway!), but the wider area too. I think we should lobby the Local Authorities to take on some of these things too!

What do you think are the two most pressing issues facing Brent and Harrow today and how do you intend driving forward with them?

I think the biggest issue is the horrendous one-party Labour council. How can we live in a democratic society when our representatives aren’t being held accountable for their actions? Also the increase of violence and sexual offences in Brent and Harrow over the past few years is shocking. It’s time for an urgent review of local policing and action to tackle this anti-social behaviour.

Do you think the Green Party should have links with trade unions? Please give reasons for your answer.

I do think the Green Party should have links to trade unions, and we should be the party leading on the trade union movement. The Labour Party are no longer the party of the working class, or the party of the blue collar worker. The Green Party have proven time and time again both in policy and in practice to stand up for the most marginalised and at risk people in society.

As many politicians now proceed from education via employment by political parties, N.G.O.’s or think tanks directly into elected office; I would like to ask candidates what experience they have outside these fields and how this influences their politics?

I am very clear when I say that I am not a typical politician. Outside of the green party as a youth worker, I regularly host residentials with large groups of young people all over the UK. I believe this shows my adaptability and approachability along with awareness of current youth and community issues. Many of the young people I support face multiple barriers and additional needs. I am confident and comfortable with the diverse and challenging needs of young people and the wider public.

What actions do you think the London Mayor/GLA should be taking to ensure that affordable housing is available for London’s key workers in education, health and the emergency services?

The housing situation in London is a crisis. Everybody deserves the right to an affordable, safe place to live. Key workers in emergency services and education should be prioritised households within a reasonable distance of their place of work and rent caps should be introduced to limit and stunt the growth in house prices.

What is your attitude to homeopathy and should it be upheld and encouraged in the National Health Service?

I believe all people should have the autonomy of choice whether they would like to be prescribed traditional medication or seek natural alternatives. However, I would always recommend traditional medication methods as the best and most scientifically tested way of treating ailments. I do believe homeopathic treatments should be freely available on the National Health Service, however traditional medication methods (with the best success rate) should always be encouraged first.

My thoughts on UN COP22, Marrakech

[Cross-post from Ecosprinter. View original article here]

Climate change has once again become the focus of global diplomacy last week as countries gathered in Marrakech, Morocco for the UN (United Nations) climate body’s (UNFCCC) 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22). I was lucky enough to be chosen as a delegate to the Federation of Young European Greens (FYEG) AlterCOP22 climate camp. Attending the climate conference last week proved to be challenging, not just for the group but for the global sustainability impact of the conference and its effect on the wider climate debate.

The first week appeared to be overshadowed somewhat by the victory of Donald Trump in the White House. The atmosphere was sombre and thoughts of the Trump election as a global climate and equality disaster filled the air. Announcing plans to divert ratification of the newly launched Paris Agreement throughout his campaign, anti-sustainability  and climate-sceptic Trump has left COP22 wondering whether the large financial targets can be met without America. This has led many COP22 delegates feeling as though the Paris Agreement although only a year old and a clear roadmap for governments’ actions, may already be flawed as it relies on each country’s individual contributions and only focuses on short-term goals.

It was brought starkly home to us on multiple occasions that the rest of Europe and the world feel that Brexit paved the way for Trump’s election. We are witnessing a changing force in the political spectrum, the rise of right wing populism, the breakdown of political differences over the means of production, and a widening divide in immigration and globalisation. But despite this, there is a glimmer of hope in China. Emerging as the global climate leader in the wake of Trump’s triumph, Chinese officials have made clear that their visions lie firmly in a low-carbon future. As Liu Zhenmin said in Marrakech, any change in US policy ‘won’t affect China’s commitment to support climate negotiations and also the implementation of the Paris Agreement’.

Climate experts from across the world have gathered in Marrakech to decide on the actual detail of the Paris Agreement which was signed last year at COP21. But the details are exactly what dominated the conference. Said to be the COP of action, Marrakech debates and panels were filled with technicalities and trivial thoughts from the delegates with the loudest voices and clear, tangible actions and pledges were few and far between. A year on from the Paris Agreement, just 113 out of 197 countries have ratified, accounting in total for only an estimated 55% of the total global greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris Agreement set the overarching framework for dealing with climate change in the short climate decades to come. But alone it will not solve the problem, and nations now have to pledge responsibility with clear actions and targets to fulfil the 2C temperature goal and to provide the $100bn a year by 2020 agreed in Paris.

Throughout the COP, there has been a focus on loss and damage to nations in the such as Fiji and the Marshall Islands caused by climate change. With rising sea levels destroying communities in the global south and health of their citizens, cultural and social damage must be at the forefront of the debate. We have witnessed the imperialist US demonstrate the barbaric industrial revolution and debates purely focuses on economic damage of developed nations, however the COP22 and specifically China has shifted the debate to a grassroots level, establishing dialogue with the citizens suffering the most.

Upon arrival to the COP22 Green Zone, we were faced with large, multinational corporations showcasing their sustainable technologies and civil society, yet completely greenwashing over their products and services. Sponsored by mining corporations and ‘green oil’ companies, the COP22 appears on the surface to distract the public into thinking they are taking responsibility for their effect on the global climate change crisis. When in actual fact the COP22 is a brainwashing, bureaucratic event used for climate propaganda on the Moroccan public and the rest of the world. From discussions with local activists, we find hunger striking in Jemaa El-Fnaa square and find that the homeless have been imprisoned for the duration of the conference. Without a commitment to broadcast to the rest of the world the ongoing problems faced by the global south, this COP can hardly be called progress.

The involvement of fossil fuel companies is everywhere: government bodies, ministries for energy, green NGO’s and conferences, feeding their corporate interests into the climate debates. Morocco and many others are moving towards a completely green energy model, however it is also being privatised and greenwashing over the illegal occupation of Western Sahara. This concept of green capitalism is just shifting the problem from one hand to another. These multinationals have the appetite to effect change and explore their role in climate change mitigation but we need to demand their focus on sustainability and for them to reject economic models dependent on growth.

Along with greenwashing, youth participation in the debates was shockingly low. The ‘Young and Future Generations’ day was completely dictated by the Secretariat of COP with no youth consultation and no youth representation on panels or debates during that day. By the COP23, we need to be calling for and putting pressure on a stronger youth focus and responsibility undertaken by the UN to include young people in the ongoing climate change debate, to which we will be the most affected.

Surprisingly lacking in the debates was the aspect of climate and environmental justice and who financially is responsible for the consequences and damage to the global south. This responsibility absolutely cannot lie with developing nations and must be economically and socially committed to by the global north. Social justice and environmental justice go hand in hand but meeting the high financial and emission demands of the Paris Agreement will be difficult without America.

Amongst the propaganda and misinformation, there were several ambitions to come out of the COP22. Firstly to be only at a global warming temperature of 3C by the end of the century. This can be achieved by a global deal recognised by the EU and the rest of the world. The EU’s failure to take clear and decisive leadership in tackling climate change at this COP is embarrassing. By 2023 there will be no more carbon budget. Fossil fuels are expensive, dangerous, unhealthy and environmentally destructive. Secondly, for nations to pledge $100bn a year in Green Climate Fund mitigation finance. In order to make this a reality, we need to put pressure on more parties to ratify the Paris Agreement and play their part in climate aid and climate justice. Climate investment is in the public interest and it makes economic sense to cut all financial ties to the fossil fuel sector and invest in renewable mitigating solutions now.

Trump is only just the beginning. We need to prepare for an era of populism and totalitarianism regimes. We need to put more emphasis on international solidarity and build communities to fight for a sustainable future. The world needs to unite to contain the right wing populism that is gathering force across the globe and emphasise that Trump is internationally isolated in the climate debate. Safeguarding the Paris Agreement is imperative to enter into an ambitious age of shared climate responsibility, to stabilise global climate emissions. What was unthinkable has now become unstoppable, threatening the fundamental foundation of human civilisation. We need to turn ideas in vision, vision into compromise and compromise into policy to protect our global future.

Hannah Graham is a member of the Young Greens of England & Wales. You can follow her on Twitter @hannarrr_