Public ambition on climate action is high, leaders must tell us how they will match it

We can’t risk the greatest issue of our time being sidelined again. We must have a leaders climate and nature debate before the election.

For years, the UK has been blighted by political inertia on climate, but new polling released last week suggests a majority of people support ambitious ‘net-zero’ decarbonisation targets of 2030 or earlier. Moreover, almost half of Conservative voters polled supported more ambitious plans than those set by their party, by a 20-year difference.

But although public ambition for climate action is high, the understanding of how our leaders will get us there and what this means for our daily lives is still unclear.  That is precisely why we need party leaders to take part in a televised climate and nature debate to inform the public how exactly our potential next Prime Minister plans to match the ambition of the country.

Not only does a swathe of polling and public concern tracking in recent months point toward an electorate that cares deeply about climate change, it also suggests a nuanced understanding of the threat climate breakdown poses if left unabated.

Living in a world dominated by 24/7 news and social media, anyone with an internet connection or tv has access to a constant stream of content. Headlines relating to gruesome and stark warnings by the international scientific community have become commonplace, with information travelling faster than ever before. The result is a proliferation of knowledge about the unfolding climate and ecological crises we face, which many around the world are already experiencing today.

Combined with access to unprecedented information about the impacts of climate and ecological breakdown in the UK, we’ve witnessed a massive scaling of activism from multiple directions that has served to put climate centre-stage in the public sphere. It therefore came as no surprise when an earlier poll, commissioned by ClientEarth, found that the majority of voters say climate change will influence the way they vote at the next election, with the figure at almost three quarters for those under 2, really signifying that many see this election must be about the climate crisis.

But details of how our political leaders plan to tackle these issues is a whole other story.  The headlines often focus on their commitments to ‘net-zero’ emissions targets ranging from Labour’s 2030, through to the Conservative pledge to “eliminate the UKs contribution to climate change” by 2050. However, there is relatively little information comparing the different pathways to avoiding a future of climate catastrophe, and which of these our perspective governments intend to take to secure a safe and liveable planet.

The public needs to have a clear opportunity to scrutinise the major political parties’ plans to address the climate crisis – and a televised leaders debate on the subject would ensure this.

This leads me to wonder why we haven’t seen a broadcaster announcement detailing the timing of the climate and nature debate that so desperately needs to take place this general election. With all of the major opposition parties, including the Scottish National Party, Labour, Liberal Democrats, and the Greens, committing their support to take place in a climate and nature debate, the last pieces of the puzzle to fall into place include confirmation from the Conservatives and a willing broadcaster.

The calls for a climate debate are coming from a range of organisations, representing up to 20 million people, from the National Pensioners Convention and National Education Union to the Royal Institute of British Architects and National Union of Students as well as dozens of scientists and academics.

The onus is now on broadcasters to provide a platform for the public to scrutinise whether political parties and their prospective future prime ministers’ plans match the level of ambition manifesting among the public and how they intend to deliver.

We can’t risk the greatest issue of our time being sidelined again. We must have a leaders climate and nature debate before the election. 

Jake Woodier is a climate campaigner and organiser with the UK Student Climate Network and Green New Deal UK.

Like this article? Left Foot Forward relies on support from readers to sustain our progressive journalism. Can you become a supporter for £5 a month?

One Response to “Public ambition on climate action is high, leaders must tell us how they will match it”

  1. Public ambition on climate action is high, leaders must tell us how they will match it - Politics Highlight - News from the Left and Right

    […] 14 November 2019Politics Highlight We can’t risk the greatest issue of our time being sidelined again. We must have a leaders climate and nature debate before the election. Author: Jake Woodier | Source […]

Leave a Reply