Caroline Lucas: You Ask The Questions

The Green Party leader, MEP and parliamentary candidate for Brighton Pavilion answers your questions, such as 'Why did Copenhagen fail?' and 'Would you cycle to work at Westminster?'
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The Independent Online

The great Malthusian fraud has reared its head again. Will your party take a stand in declaring overpopulation simply a way of blaming the developing world for the sins of the rich? Timothy Dark, Leicester

On a planet of finite resources, increasing population growth is clearly a serious challenge, which needs to be addressed via a combination of greater openness and debate on the subject in the North, and through development, better access to family planning, and greater empowerment of women in the South. Given that the environmental impact of an average person in the UK, for example, is far greater than that of someone in Africa, it's certainly unfair to try to blame the developing world for "the sins of the rich". Current patterns of economic globalisation are creating unequal societies and placing an impossible burden on natural resources.

Why did Copenhagen fail? Eric Frapp, Wolverhampton

Several reasons. Obama's hands were tied by the Senate, China was concerned that its future development might be compromised if emission targets were adopted now, and there wasn't sufficient agreement within the EU to show real leadership. Ultimately, there simply wasn't enough public pressure to force politicians to show greater ambition.

How would you rate Ed Miliband as Climate Change Secretary? Sunder Jarde, Dudley, WEST MIDLANDS

He seems to be personally very committed to tackling climate change, but he's working within a government and a wider policy framework that will make it difficult for him to achieve anything substantial – for example, government support for new coal fired power stations.

Your party demonises air travel, with an implicit snobbery toward the poor people who have benefited from cheap flights. Why don't you celebrate planes as a high point of human ingenuity? Richard Tooze, London

The Green Party thinks it's unfair to subsidise the aviation industry to the tune of £9bn in the UK every single year. That's effectively a massive transfer of resources from poorer people, who fly less, to richer people, who fly more.

Would your party accept Zac Goldsmith as a candidate if the Tories became fed up with him? Hamish McCall, London

You'd have to ask the party! And it would depend on whether he supports our policies – especially our redistributive economic policies, our one million job creation programme, our policy of keeping the NHS and Royal Mail in public hands, and our opposition to the idea that the way out of recession is to slash public spending.

Aside from in Brighton, a vote for your party is a wasted vote. Which of the three main parties is most credible on green issues (I don't live in Brighton I'm afraid)? Fiona Tugg, Exeter

A Green vote outside Brighton isn't a wasted vote. The party stands a good chance of electing our first MPs in Norwich and Lewisham, where deputy leader Adrian Ramsay and London Assembly chair Darren Johnson respectively are standing, and we look set to do well in places like Cambridge too, where former Director of Friends of the Earth, Tony Juniper, is running a great campaign. A strong result for us at the election will send a clear message to the three Westminster parties that people agree with our fresh political approach. Not one of the red, yellow or blue parties could be called credible on green issues. And none of them match our commitment to creating more jobs, protecting public services, cutting carbon emissions and addressing inequality.

Do you think your party is helped or hindered by the fact that many eco-protest groups are widely seen by the public as unreconstructed hippies? Laura Westbury, Plymouth

The Green Party is the fastest growing political party fighting for elected representation in Westminster, with a growing number of elected members in local government and in the European Parliament. And clearly huge numbers of voters do now recognise us as a credible force in UK politics, with local councillors making a practical difference to people's daily lives up and down the country. That's why over a million people voted for us in the Euro elections, and where we came first, ahead of all the other parties, in Brighton and Hove, Norwich and Oxford.

GM food increases crop yields, aids the production of healthy foods through cross-fertilisation, and just happen to be monopolised by sinister multinationals. What's your problem with using them to fill starving bellies? Michael Harding, Newcastle

GM technology doesn't necessarily increase crop yields – research has actually shown the opposite can be true. The Government's own GM public debate in 2003 revealed widespread concern over both GM crops and the concentration of corporate control of the food system. A recent UN report by 400 scientists concluded that a more effective way to meet food needs is by combining science and technology with communities' traditional knowledge to support more sustainable and diverse farming.

When did you first become active in green politics, and why do you think green thinking has entered the mainstream? Cheryl Laming, Scunthorpe

Back in 1986, I read Jonathon Porritt's book Seeing Green, was totally inspired by his arguments about how social and environmental justice are linked, and joined up to the Green Party straightaway. Green thinking is now mainstream, as people increasingly recognise that we need new solutions to the growing environmental and social crises, and see the positive effects on their lives of green policies in practice.

Isn't it precisely the shallow stunts of people like David Cameron, who put windmills on their roofs and get photographed with huskies, that damages the green cause? Morgan Simpson, Cardiff

David Cameron can do what he likes – his greenwash antics will continue to appear transparent as long as his party is still home to climate change deniers and proponents of unchecked economic growth. I'm not sure that these PR stunts damage the green cause as such, although it is disappointing and confusing for people when the actions of politicians fail to match their rhetoric. That's why we need Green MPs in Westminster – we'll hold the others to account.

What with the leaked emails from East Anglia and the farce of Copenhagen, it's been a bad few months for your ambitions, hasn't it? Rosanna Layard, Liverpool

It's been pretty disappointing for everyone who wanted to see an ambitious agreement on climate change. But for the Green Party more generally, it's certainly not doom and gloom. Recent independent polls are predicting a Green win in Brighton Pavilion and our policies of opposing the privatisation of public services and creating more jobs are becoming increasingly popular.

If you become an MP, will you cycle to work? And will you be followed by a car? Jane Hanning, London

I much prefer trains, and would be making many rail journeys between my Brighton Pavilion constituency and Westminster. It's quite a distance to cycle! Locally, I'd be travelling a great deal by bus; indeed, a key Green priority in Brighton is to ensure a cheaper and more comprehensive bus service. I think I'd be quite worried if someone was to follow me around in a car – in fact I'd probably call the police.

Are you vegetarian? If not, why not? And if so, is it on carbon consumption grounds? Ian Pughe-Webb, Frome, Somerset

Yes, I am, and have been for many years. I'm not proposing that everyone should be vegetarian, but I do believe that eating less meat is better for our health, for animal welfare, and for the environment.

What was the last work of fiction you read? Edward Howitzer, London

The Book Thief [by Marcus Zusak], on my son's suggestion. Haunting and beautifully written.

Would you support the introduction of all-women shortlists for parliamentary seats? Fru Barnton, London

Yes, because I believe it's essential to make the House of Commons more representative. It's a scandal really that in the so-called "Mother of Parliaments", women still make up only a fifth of MPs – many countries do far better than us. I was struck by the fact that in Brighton Pavilion, it looks likely to be the first time that this country has seen an all-women contest – extraordinary that it's taken us until 2010 for that to happen!