Johnson frozen out of climate leaders debate as green groups call for net-zero pact between parties

With Prime Minister Boris Johnson quite literally frozen out of the leader's climate debate last night, more than 40 academics, policy specialists, trade bodies and businesses have called for a bipartisan net-zero pact between the UK political parties in order to ensure the nation meets its commitments.

Johnson frozen out of climate leaders debate as green groups call for net-zero pact between parties

The ice sculptures where used to highlight the climate emergency

If you’ve already downloaded edie’s party manifesto green policy matrix that outlines that major parties’ commitments to combatting the climate emergency, then last night’s leaders debate on Channel 4 was more a game of bingo than the party leaders shedding new insight on how to meet net-zero in the UK.

Arguably, the biggest talking point was the Prime Minister’s no show at the event. Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and former Environment Secretary Michael Gove turned up to the Channel 4 studio in a bid to take Boris Johnson’s place after the PM declined an appearance. But rather than allowing Gove to step up, or even empty chairing the Conservatives, Channel 4 instead placed a frozen sculpture of the PM – and for the Brexit Party’s Nigel Farage – alongside Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and Green Party co-leader Sian Berry.

The sculptures were used by Channel 4 as a “reminder” of the urgency, or indeed, lack of time left to alleviate climate pressures across the globe. The Conservatives have since written to Ofcom to complain about the use of the sculptures.

The actual discussion points of the debate, however, were more focused on what we already know.

“This election is the last chance to tackle our climate emergency,” Labour’s Corbyn said, reciting rhetoric that has been voiced by green groups and businesses for the past few months. The party leaders debated the intricacies of improving household energy efficiency, and the role of nuclear, but they were all somewhat aligned with the ‘where the UK needs to get to’, with the ‘how’ still largely unexplored.

Curbing meat consumption and limiting flights were highlighted as actions that individuals could take, but each spokesperson was well aware that implementing the framework and environment that encouraged citizens to do so remains undefined.

A net-zero pact

With timeframes to reaching net-zero differing from party to party, there is a cross-party awareness of the need to transition to net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest.

In response, more than 40 academics, policy specialists, trade bodies and businesses have signed an open letter calling on the parties to agree a “post-election pact” on climate change and reaching net-zero

The signatories noted the collaborative efforts of all the parties in calling for and eventually enshrining the net-zero target into law and has called for a similar bipartisan approach that ensures the policy frameworks are put in place to meet the new targets, regardless of what party is in power.

“If the past few years have taught us anything, it is that taking a divided approach to policymaking is ineffective,” the letter states. “It has led to stagnation and frustration within Parliament and across the UK. In this current political environment, we need to ensure that high priority issues such as achieving Net Zero and the wider climate change objectives do not fall into the trap of partisan ideology.

“The incoming Government must be ambitious, coordinated and accountable. From the outset, the Government and the opposition parties, whoever they may be, must work together to forge a path to Net Zero that is rooted in compromise and goes beyond party politics.

“In light of this, we are calling for all parties to capture the spirit of cooperation they’ve successfully demonstrated in this sphere previously, and agree to a post-election pact on climate change, agreeing to work collaboratively, whether they are in Government or Opposition, to implement legislation and policy that achieves Net-Zero by the agreed timescales, in a fair and inclusive way.”

The likes of Dr Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the REA, Joanne Wade, deputy director of ADE, Chris Hewitt, chief executive of the Solar Trade Association and Louise Kingham, chief executive of the Energy Institute, have all signed the letter.

The signatories have called for the UK to use COP26 next year as an opportunity to demonstrate collaboration on a global scale to help meet the ambitions of the Paris Agreement.

Matt Mace

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