Comment: We Need to Have a Prime-Time Debate on the Climate Emergency

Comment: We Need to Have a Prime-Time Debate on the Climate Emergency
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By Jake Woodier, UK Student Climate Network campaigner

The upcoming election comes at the end of an unprecedented year of mass climate action, and is a crucial chance to put pressure on politicians to get serious about tackling the climate and nature crises. But to properly hold the next government to account, we believe political leaders should be made to reveal their plans to tackle these crises on prime-time TV.

Given the short timeframe that the scientific community has given in which we have to rapidly eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and decarbonise the entire economy, it’s vital the public have an opportunity to scrutinise how political leaders plan to tackle these emergencies.

Since the release of the IPCC 1.5 degree report, we’ve witnessed a dramatic shift in the way the climate is being spoken about. We’re now firmly moving away from this being a “future issue”, with large proportions of the public rightly concerned about the immediate impacts that climate breakdown is having for many around the world.

The recent flooding in the North of England acts as a stark reminder in the lead-up to election day of how extreme weather events like this are likely to increase in both frequency and magnitude in the face of rising global temperatures. No other issue has seen the unprecedented rise in concern that climate change and ecological breakdown has – with a record 85 percent of adults in the UK now concerned about the climate crisis.

Polling by ClientEarth also suggests a majority of people will be influenced by climate change when casting their vote at the upcoming election, and a survey released this month shows the appetite the public has for rapid climate action – with a majority backing a net-zero emissions target year of 2030 or earlier.

That’s why climate charity Possible and school strike organisers UKSCN are coordinating a coalition of organisations calling on political leaders to take part in a televised debate on climate change and nature.

Joining our call are people and organisations from across society, ranging from the National Pensioners Convention, National Trust, RSPB to the National Union of Students. Over 70 organisations are calling for the debate, with a combined membership of over 10 million. A petition launched just last week in support of the debate has already received over 150,000 signatures.

We are all united in our belief that this is a huge and necessary opportunity to hold politicians to account and ensure that climate change and wider ecological breakdown is a key issue in this election, as it needs to be. We need this to be our first climate and nature election.

We often hear references to the lost decade of climate action following COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009. Failing to recognise the severity of the multiple crises at hand and act upon them has resulted in the emergency we now find ourselves in. But with concern over climate change at its highest-ever level, we have a real opportunity to ensure this vital election is the one in which action on climate change and nature is given due respect. 

Politicians have for too long got away with not talking enough about climate, resulting in a lack of public scrutiny. The scale of the challenge requires open and frank conversations from those in positions of power, with open avenues for public engagement necessary for the electorate to actively participate.

Seeing a proper debate on climate and nature would not only give the crises the attention they deserve, but ensure that whoever is the next prime minister is held to account on how they will address the greatest challenges of our time.


Editor’s note – Why DeSmog is joining the call for a climate and nature debate

We are journalists, not activists. But transparency is at the core of everything we do. And we can think of few things more important than forcing political leaders – and ultimately the next Prime Minister – to explain, in detail, their plans to tackle the greatest challenge of a generation.

We exist to try and provide people with the best information possible about the UK’s climate policy. A climate emergency debate gives politicians the opportunity to explain from the outset what their climate plans are . We believe that is a democratic good.

So we’re proud to be the first media organisation to sign up to the campaign for a debate on climate and nature. Let’s put the spotlight on the leaders, and make this the climate election it deserves to be. Find out more about the campaign here.


Main image: Andrew Parsons/Flickr CC BYND 2.0

Comment: We Need to Have a Prime-Time Debate on the Climate Emergency

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