The Big Nature and Climate Debate

On Monday the 17th of June a coalition consisting of many of the UK’s major nature and climate groups including Chester Zoo, The Wildlife Trusts, Wildlife and Countryside Link, Hope for the Future and CIEEM joined forces to organise a live debate between the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party. The debate was held at Chester Zoo, and the political panel consisted of Rebbaca Pow (Conservative Nature Minister), Adrian Ramsay (Green Party Co-Leader), Toby Perkins (Shadow Nature Minister) and Lord Richard Newby (Liberal Democrat leader in the House of Lords).

It was fantastic to see politicians engaging in an honest debate focused on nature and climate, which has been sorely missing in the lead-up to July’s General Election, despite 71% of adults in the UK saying that not enough is being done to protect nature for the next generation. The politicians present acknowledged the importance of restoring nature and preventing runaway climate change and were able to pitch what each of their parties would do if they were to win next month’s general election. Following these pitches, audience members were invited to pose questions to the panellists, which ranged across the environmental spectrum, including climate, farming, nature recovery and corporate responsibility. Notably, the questions sparked some commitments from the assembled panellists, including:

  • Conservatives pledged an extra £1 billion for farming budgets, covering funding for innovative technology.
  • Green Party pledged to give the 30×30 commitments for nature the same level of focus as net-zero targets.
  • Labour pledged that they would ratify the Global Oceans Treaty, and review the Environmental Improvement Plan.
  • Liberal Democrats pledged a requirement for all large companies to publish and implement their plans to ensure their operations result in a net positive for nature.

These commitments highlight how important it is for us to have nature-focused debates within our politics, it pushes parties to commit to changes while under challenge and scrutiny from their opponents. However, despite the success of this event, it is still disappointing that the leaders of the primary political parties in England refuse to treat climate and nature with the same level of respect as they do health, transport or GDP growth. During the televised debate between party leaders climate change and nature restoration were barely mentioned, despite the UK’s position as one of the most nature-depleted countries on earth. This attitude has to change if we are to meet the enormous challenge of our international commitments to restore 30% of our land and sea by 2030.

To add some scrutiny to the proceedings the political debate was followed by two panels of experts, where CEOs of Nature and Climate organisations and campaigners broke down some of the answers and commitments given by the party representatives. These panels highlighted how much more needed to be done for climate and nature, but crucially, that this event marked a very positive step in the right direction.

You can watch the full debate and follow-up expert panel, produced by the The Wildlife Trusts on their Youtube channel here: The Big Nature and Climate Debate.

Channel 4 coverage of the event, and questions on the role of nature and climate policy in the 2024 General Election, can be found here.