In the 2017 general election, there was almost no mention of the environment in the Conservative manifesto. The Green Party had to march from government department to government department with a giant green question mark, asking: “Where is the environment in this election?” Since then, we’ve seen a resurgent climate movement put our natural world on the agenda like never before and I dared to dream this election might be different.
Sadly, I was disappointed by the first head to head between Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson. After a predictable slew of questions on Brexit, they spent as much time joking about Christmas presents as they did discussing climate change. Despite one questioner calling it “the most important issue in the world”, Johnson made it clear that he thought “getting Brexit done” trumped the climate crisis.
Last night will have left thousands screaming at their televisions. It’s not like in past elections where the climate was a niche issue among the electorate. We know that a majority of Brits support going net-zero by 2030 – an ambition which we set out in full in the Green Party manifesto this week. We also know that people care more about the environment than the economy for the first time ever - one in five people calling it a major issue, up from 2% just seven years ago.
Given that the environment is the fourth most important issue to voters, the silence last night spoke volumes. Now it’s clearer than ever that we need a dedicated debate on nature and the climate – and it can’t just be the leaders of the two main parties.
We need to hear from a much broader range of voices – including the Greens. To make this happen, the leaders of all opposition parties sent a letter to Boris Johnson this week, asking him to participate in such a debate. Nearly 200,000 people have signed a petition demanding the same thing.
When you put Greens head to head with the other parties on the climate, it’ll be clear that nobody else has a plan which is as clear and comprehensive as ours. It’s amazing to have Labour pick up the Green New Deal which our very own Caroline Lucas helped shape in 2008, but while other parties are trying to catch up, we keep racing ahead. Our manifesto set out the most ambitious Green New Deal anywhere in the world, and we’re ready to put it to the test in a proper debate.
Our vision is broader in both size and scope. Our spending plans dwarf all other parties. While the Tories are pretending to turn on the taps, and Labour and the Lib Dems are pledging billions for the climate, we’ve changed the conversation by pledging to invest a trillion in climate action over the next 10 years.
We are also ready to face up to the hard work of decarbonising every sector of the economy – including agriculture, housing and transport – not just industry and energy. And we are clear on one more critical thing: we are best placed to do all of this by remaining in the European Union.
Greens said this election must be the climate election, and it’s fair to say that we’ve been proven right by the natural world itself. It’s not some distant threat, somewhere else, in the future. It’s here, it’s now, and it’s cascading into living rooms across Doncaster, Sheffield, Worcester and Nottingham.
The fact that there wasn’t a proper question on climate in last night’s debate was a disgrace. Before the end of this campaign, we must put our environment at the heart of a full television debate, or else we might have to dust off the big green question mark. Does Johnson have the guts to take on the Greens?