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A climate election? UK voters want parties to tackle crisis

by Molly Millar | @mollyamillar | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 6 November 2019 21:07 GMT

MP Kate Green holds a tree sapling as she listens to Extinction Rebellion protester Matthew Shribman outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, October 8, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

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While the ongoing Brexit battle is a top election issue, parties' positions on climate change could prove pivotal after a year of Extinction Rebellion protests and youth activism

By Molly Millar

LONDON, Nov 6 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - With the climate emergency at the forefront of British voters' minds as found by a recent poll, the Green Party made a dramatic campaign pledge on Wednesday to spend £100bn a year to tackle climate change.

While the ongoing Brexit battle is a top issue in the run-up to the Dec. 12 general election, parties' positions on climate change could prove pivotal after a year of Extinction Rebellion protests and youth activism inspired by Greta Thunberg.

A poll published last week by ClientEarth found 54% of those surveyed said climate change is an important enough issue to influence their vote. The figure jumped to 74% for those under 25.

The Green Party, which currently has one MP, accordingly announced its government plan included spending £100bn each year on the climate crisis.

"Is this a lot of money? Over a decade ago in 2008 the British government bailed out HBOS to the tune of over 30 billion," said Gina Dowding MEP, a Green Parliamentary candidate for Fylde constituency.

"That's a good figure to bear in mind when considering government spending in 2019," she said.

The party would scrap airport expansion plans and invest in public transport infrastructure, and also push for the UK to move up its current carbon neutral goal to 2030 from 2050.

"The science is clear. If we fail to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, we'll face catastrophe on an unprecedented scale," said Alexandra Louise Phillips, a Green MEP running for MP in Brighton Kemptown.

"We cannot allow these elections to just be governed by Brexit...These next five years will be crucial if we are to slow the effects of the climate crisis. Next month's election must be a climate change election."

Green groups have praised the plans.

"With the planet in the midst of a climate emergency, the rapid decarbonisation of the economy must be at the very heart of every party's election campaign," said Dave Timms, Friends of the Earth's head of political affairs.

The Labour party has pledged that all UK homes from 2022 will be carbon neutral. Its plans include upgrades with double glazing, solar panels and insulation.

Conservative leader Boris Johnson meanwhile has affirmed his main concern is to "get Brexit done."

Given such varying campaign messages, some voters are calling for a televised debate on climate change.

"It's vital that students have the chance to hear from any future prime minister what their plans are to tackle the climate crisis," Zamzam Ibrahim, president of the National Union of Students told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"All issues pale into insignificance compared to the urgency and magnitude of the climate emergency and ecological crisis."

(Reporting by Molly Millar, editing by Chris Michaud. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)

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