The very fact the debate took place is a monumental moment for the climate change movement, which would never have happened without Greta and her Fridays for Future student strikes. Climate activists, scientists, businesses and ordinary people have taken climate change from a “niche’ topic to top of the political agenda. For the first time, the majority of political parties are taking the climate crisis extremely seriously in their manifestos, demonstrating how the public can influence politics and force those in government to take the issues we care about seriously.
In contrast to much of our political discourse at the moment, this debate was broadly civil and constructive. There was point scoring and argument of course, but the reality is that the leaders were essentially in violent agreement. Many of the policies are broadly similar and the argument about deadlines should not distract from acting right now.
A key moment was when Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP mentioned unity. Climate change isn’t something we should be squabbling about, it should unite us together in the fight for our lives. The melting ice sculptures were an impactful visual reminder that not all party leaders chose to take part. But climate change is one of the top issues affecting this election according to recent polls, with 54% of adults saying it will affect how they vote - rising to 74% for under 25s. So all parties need to take it extremely seriously.
Elsewhere in Europe and internationally, positive steps are being taken. European Parliament declared a Climate Emergency yesterday, and next week sees the start of the most important UN climate meeting for four years. So our message continues to be the same. Let’s work together to be the change we want to see by building new, clean energy capacity, and keep holding whoever is in government to account to put policy in place with reflects both the gravity of the Climate Crisis and the huge potential we have to create a better future for us all.