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Voters Say They Aren’t Hearing Enough About the Climate in This Election, Amid ‘Silence’ on Issue in BBC Debate

The final head to head debate between Starmer and Sunak didn’t have a single question on climate or nature.

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, left, take part for the BBC’s Prime Ministerial Debate, in Nottingham, on Wednesday June 26th. Photo: Phil Noble/Pool via AP / Alamy Stock Photo

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Voters say they aren’t hearing enough about the climate in this election, according to a new poll carried out by Savanta for climate charity Possible. 

Four in ten voters say they aren’t hearing enough about climate during this campaign, compared to just 16% who say they have heard too much on the topic. 

Similarly, a plurality of voters (35%) report that they have heard less on climate in comparison to the 2019 general election campaign, more than twice the number of those who say they have heard more (15%).

In 2019, Channel 4 hosted a dedicated climate change TV debate in the run up to the election. Then-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn appeared alongside four smaller parties, but Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage refused to take part. That has not been replicated this time, with no dedicated TV debate on climate. 

There was not a single question on climate change at the final BBC head-to-head on Wednesday night (26th June), with the only mention being an attack from Rishi Sunak on Labour’s decarbonisation plans. 

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While it’s a very rough proxy, Labour’s 2019 manifesto had 60 mentions of the word “climate” to 25 this year. The Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto mentioned climate 10 times, remaining stable this year at 11. 

In 2019, Friends of the Earth rated the Conservative manifesto at 5.5 points out of a maximum 45 in 2019 (12.2%) in relation to key environmental policies. This time, the party ranked 5 points out of 40 (12.5%). Labour ranked 33 out of 45 points in 2019, or 73% of top marks – outranking even the Green Party. 

This time round, Friends of the Earth scores Labour’s manifesto at 20.5 out of 40 on green policies, or 51.3% of top marks, falling far behind the Lib Dems (31.5/40) and Greens (39/40). 

It comes as around 50 “Stop Polluting Politics” campaigners blockaded Labour HQ’s in South London on Thursday morning (27th June) in protest against the party’s financial ties to “polluting corporations such as [fuel firm] Drax and [aeroplane manufacturer] Airbus”.

Accompanied by chants of “Labour, come off it: put people over profit” and carrying banners reading “Labour: Party of the People Polluters”, the campaigners physically blocked both entrances to the HQ in Southwark.

Campaigners claim that Labour’s ties to “major polluters” are to blame for the decision to abandon its flagship £28 billion green investment pledge.

The Labour Party has received £41,600 from polluters since 2019, including £9,600 from the aviation firm Airbus, and £12,000 from biomass (wood-burning) company Drax.

The climate protest outside Labour HQ on Thursday. Photo: Stop Polluting Politics

Campaign group Possible says the polling builds on a growing evidence base showing that commitment to climate action is popular with the public, remaining a top five issue for the electorate. Other recent polling found that policies seeking to row back on climate action are unpopular among every demographic – including those who intend to vote Conservative and Reform.

These findings further suggest that politicians are out of step with the public on the climate, with this election campaign seeing signs of the main parties either downplaying or watering down their climate commitments, or even attempting to use the issue to expressly divide and polarise the public.

Climate charity Possible is calling on media and politicians to give climate “proper prominence” in the final week of the election campaign. 

Max Wakefield, co-director of climate charity Possible, said: “It absolutely beggars belief that we can have the final debate between the two candidates for prime minister and not have a single question on climate in a full hour and a half. 

“The public truly cares about the climate and we want our leaders to commit to real action. But we aren’t seeing that reflected in this election campaign, with politicians watering down their ambition and trying to polarise the public.

“As we go into the final week of the campaign, let’s make sure the climate is given the prominence it deserves. We’re calling on the media and the candidates standing for election to have a proper conversation about the climate, and celebrate how good climate policy can make Britain a better place to live.”

Savanta polled 2,323 people over the weekend of June 22nd and 23rd. The full polling tables/results, including a breakdown by various demographics, can be found here.

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Josiah Mortimer also writes the On the Ground column, exclusive to the print edition of Byline Times.

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