Growing up in a working-class family in South London, something which was made clear to me from a young age was the importance of standing up for what you believe in, writes Councillor Steve Davis.

When the National Front marched through Lewisham in the summer of 77 I was at my grandfather’s house. “I didn’t fight in Germany and Spain just to sit back and let fascists march down my street,” he roared before dragging us all out to oppose the march. It is a lesson I’ll never forget about the importance of standing by your convictions.

I was politically homeless for years before I decided to join the Green Party. I was impressed not just by their national environmental polices but the local changes they had made in their first minority administration in the city, particularly the introduction of the 20mph speed limit, but the tipping point for me was climate change. The more the science showed the dangers of global warming and the clearer the catastrophic impact humans were having on a planet became, the more I felt compelled to do something. As a parent, the need to protect the planet for future generations was non-negotiable.

So I joined the Greens. And I found out that, much like Kermit the frog memorably sang, it’s not easy being green. Often people do not want to face the reality of the situation the world now finds itself in. I don’t blame them. Who wants to hear the planet is on fire? Who wants to read about how humankind has pushed the Earth to the point of non-reversible climate chaos? I’ll be honest, I preferred it when my chief concern was Millwall’s home form.

But inaction simply isn’t an option. Not on a personal level, not on a local level and not on an international level. Which is why I was so dismayed by the watered-down deal which emerged from COP28. The final deal will be hailed by some as a landmark agreement and the first steps to phasing out fossil fuels. But I found it hugely disappointing. It contains several loopholes, cannot compel countries to move away from fossil fuels and has been criticised by many of the small countries most affected by climate change. It does not go far enough.

When countries shy away from taking the difficult but necessary decisions to limit climate chaos, it makes it harder to convince people to take steps to reduce their own impact. How do you successfully encourage people to change their habits when they see world leaders pulling back from meaningful change? Asking people on the doorstep to take fewer car journeys isn’t made any easier when they see our Conservative climate minister abandoning COP28 for a 6,824-mile round trip to vote on the government’s cruel Rwanda bill.

It is disappointing but not unexpected to see our government prioritise an unfair, unworkable, expensive and frankly un-British policy of shipping vulnerable people to Rwanda over taking steps to save our planet. We hear repeatedly from the Conservatives that tackling levels of immigration is a priority of the British people and that voters support this appalling policy. I don’t believe that is true. I have too much faith in the kindness, empathy and generosity of the people of this country. That policy is less about enacting the will of the people, and more about holding together a fractured Conservative Party.

The government not prioritising the environment does not make the problem any less urgent. However inaction on a national and international level makes it all the more vital that on a personal level we do what we can.

When governments fail to act, it also makes it more important that councils do. Previous Green administrations published a climate action plan, convened a climate assembly, launched a carbon neutral fund, and invested in climate-friendly projects, including the successful re-wilding of Waterhall and stronger protections for the South Downs. We would have done more but as a minority administration often relied on the support of Labour to pass policies. Sadly, that support was not always forthcoming.

In opposition we are renewing calls for a city-wide Smoke Control Area – blocked by Labour in 2022, scrutinising the East Sussex Pension Fund’s fossil fuel divestment, and pushing for more protection for the city’s green spaces and historic elm tree collection. As someone committed to fighting for the protection of our planet, I know it’s draining to see the lack of commitment from our government.

But it is important that we stand by our convictions and continue demanding action. It isn’t easy being green. But it’s more vital than ever that we are.

Cllr Steve Davis is the Green Party convener on Brighton and Hove City Council