Climate change in the UK election

Last week we had a look at how the Greens are doing in their campaign to win their first seat in the UK parliament. But as well as those actively fighting for seats, there are also some interesting non-partisan campaigns going on over the election. With the election now only a couple of days away, they’ve pretty much run their course in their current format – but worth looking at as a sign of how some groups are working to increase the political salience of climate change.

One of the most large-scale campaigns has been Ask the Climate Question, organised by nine environmental and development charities and not-for-profits, including Greenpeace, WWF and Oxfam. Their approach has focused on gathering information and raising the profile of climate change: organising hustings and using other routes to ask candidates throughout the country about their policies on climate change.

Just going by coverage and levels of participation, it’s done very well. It’s been carried by most of the mainstream media – albeit generally in the context of the Guardian’s climate change debate – including some of those that typically only like to mention climate change as something that people don’t believe in. It looks like they’ve been getting at least 150 (sometimes twice that) at their events, and have been holding them across the country.  They’ve also been able to get the party leaders to submit videos in which they each personally explain what their parties will do to tackle climate change.

What I think it lacks is an element of punch. It’s a profile-raising campaign, rather than an action-focused one. In contrast, the Spartans campaign (motto: “It’s the climate, stupid”) is focused entirely on political action. The idea behind the campaign (which I’m helping coordinate in one constituency) is to bring together groups of voters in marginal constituencies who will pledge to support whichever credible candidate has the best policies on climate change.

The decision happens on the basis of a pledge card that the groups are using to evaluate each candidate. At a meeting that’s happening just before the election, the candidates from all parties are asked what they’ll do on climate change at the personal, local, national, and international level; the Spartans will vote on the basis of that conversation. It’s Ask the Climate Question with fangs.

One other campaign worth a look is the Friends of the Earth blog. Rather like the others, they’ve been asking candidates to make pledges about climate change (not sure why they didn’t join Ask the Climate Question). They’ve been going pretty hard at the Tories for not signing the pledges in the numbers that the other parties are – there’s a great video on their website illustrating how many fewer Tories have signed up.

So, there’s been some really effective and wide-reaching non-partisan campaign work going on through the election period. The challenge for these groups will be to sustain public engagement and political pressure through the mundane years away from the election.

  1. […] Climate Sock: Climate change in the UK election […]