Johnson 'running scared' of climate scrutiny

| 20th November 2019
Just two percent of televised leaders' debate time since 2015 has addressed climate change.

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New statistics by climate charity Possible show that just two percent of televised leaders election debate time over the last four years was spent discussing climate change.

Out of a total of eight debates since 2015, three quarters of them didn’t have climate change discussed for more than one minute. 

These findings come as the Prime Minister refuses to take part in a leaders debate on the climate and nature crises, that all major opposition parties have agreed to. The call for the debate has come from over 75 organisations, with a total membership of over 10 million, including the Women’s Institute, National Trust and the National Education Union, and over 150,000 people have signed the petition supporting the campaign. 

'Kick in the teeth'

Jake Woodier, campaigner at UK Student Climate Network, said: “The climate and nature emergencies were discussed for less just sixty seconds in last night’s election debate between Corbyn and Johnson, despite being the greatest challenges of our time.

"How can our leaders claim to be serious about tackling these crises if they aren’t giving them the attention that’s crucially needed? So far only Boris Johnson has refused to commit to taking part in a dedicated debate on climate and nature.

"If he truly believes in his plans to tackle the climate and nature emergencies, the Prime Minister should lay them out to the electorate, like all other party leaders have committed to doing, in dedicated televised debate.”

“These new stats are a kick in the teeth for young people. While the world was on fire, our politicians didn’t even bother talking about solutions to climate change. 

“With no guarantee that this will be corrected in the upcoming election, the case for a climate and nature debate is stronger than ever. The public wants it. Almost all party leaders have agreed. Boris Johnson has run out of excuses for why he won’t agree, and it’s looking like he doesn’t have confidence in his own plans by refusing to take part."

Public concern

Led by climate charity Possible and the UK Student Climate Network, the call for a climate debate was launched following concern over climate change reaching its highest ever level - 85 percent of the public are concerned about climate change and over half say it will influence how they vote in the general election. 

The reason stated by Number 10 for refusing to take part in the debate was fear of ‘siloing’ the issue, despite polling by Ipsos Mori revealed that less than a quarter (23 percent) of adults have heard the Conservative party discuss climate change issues in the last twelve months.

Max Wakefield, director at Possible, said: “These numbers are shocking - and reveal a political class completely out of touch with the public’s climate concern.

"We clearly need a TV leaders climate debate - and it’s time for the Prime Minister to stop running scared of scrutiny. Climate change is the biggest threat we face and we need leaders to stand up and be counted.’

“Over the last four years, warnings from scientists on climate and nature breakdown have become increasingly urgent, yet the most high-profile election debates have hardly even paid lip service to it.  No wonder we’re now in climate emergency - you don’t fix the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced by ignoring it. Yet that’s just what the Prime Minister is currently doing by refusing to join other party leaders in a climate debate and finally give it the priority the public demands."

This Author 

Marianne Brooker is The Ecologist's content editor. This article is based on a press release from Possible. 

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