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30 organisations write to BBC regarding climate change question in PM hustings

Irresponsible climate coverage in leadership debate (Letter to Andrew Alexander, 27th July 2022)

We are writing to you about what we perceive to be irresponsible coverage of climate change in the televised Conservative Leadership debate, ‘Our Next Prime Minister’, with Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, aired at 9pm on 25th July 2022. 

We understand that there is pressure to cover all the issues that the public want answered by our future Prime Minister during a televised debate, but as a key issue for voters it is unacceptable that the climate crisis was framed as an issue solely for individuals, not the Government, and was skimmed over in just 2-3 minutes.

Candidates were asked ‘what three things should people change in their lives to help tackle climate change faster?’ The framing of this question is wholly inappropriate, not just because it relegates the issue of climate change below others in the show which were framed as ‘governmental issues’ but because it reinforces the idea that solving climate change is an individual responsibility, rather than one which requires a response from the Prime Minister and their ministers. For this to take place the week after record temperatures in the UK, and with firefighters having the ‘worst day since the blitz’ is far below the standards we would expect from the BBC.

The purpose of a leaders’ debate is to interrogate our future Prime Minister on their policy positions for vital issues so the public can make an informed choice about which candidate will do the best job for their country – this question failed to provide them with those answers. For this to happen at a time when the cost of living is driving millions into poverty, largely driven by fossil fuel prices and rising energy bills, is unacceptable.

There is no shortage of substantive issues both candidates could have been challenged on, given their recent or current senior positions in a government that – according to both its own independent climate advisors and high court judges – is comprehensively failing to produce plans able to meet its legally binding climate commitments. The BBC reported on both the Climate Change Committee (CCC) report and the High Court ruling – these could easily have been the topic of debate. 

We would like to hear a commitment that the BBC will improve their coverage of the climate crisis in subsequent leadership coverage in the next few weeks, at this critical time for our country. We ask for a recognition that the question in the debate was inadequate, and the time allocation was too short – and a guarantee that at future leadership debates, such as in the general election, climate change will be treated as an issue of governmental, not solely personal responsibility.

Kind regards,

Max Wakefield, co-director, Possible

Katie White, Executive Director Advocacy and Campaigns, WWF

Chris Packham, Wildlife TV Presenter and Conservationist

Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director, Womens Budget Group

Hannah Martin & Fatima Ibrahim, Co directors, Green New Deal Rising 

Pete Moorey, Head of Campaigns & UK Advocacy, Christian Aid

Dr David Wearing 

Clifford Singer, Head of Communications and Digital, New Economics Foundation

Shaun Spiers, Executive Director, Green Alliance

Natasha Yorke-Edgell, Head of Movement Building, Economic Change Unit

Rosie Rogers, Head of UK Climate Campaigns, Greenpeace UK 

Fran Boait, Executive Director, Positive Money

Nick Bryer, Head of European Campaigns, 350.org

Mathew Lawrence, Founder and Director, CommonWealth

Gabriel Davalos, Head of Campaigns and Communications, Uplift

Ellie Mae O’Hagan, Director, CLASS

Jo Wittams, Interim Executive Director, The Equality Trust 

Jolyon Maugham, Director , Good Law Project

Ben Margolis, Interim Director, The Climate Coalition

Tom Randall, Senior Communications Manager, Rethinking Economics International

Paul Hebden, Acting Executive Director, Tax Justice UK

Sam Ward, Climate Cymru Manager, Climate Cymru 

Rosemary Harris, North Sea Just Transition Advocacy Lead, Platform London

Isaac Beevor, Co-Director, Climate Emergency UK

Shanon Shah, Director, Faith for the Climate

Sarah McMonagle, Head of External Affairs, CPRE, the countryside charity

Dr Salamatu Fada, Director, North Wales Africa Society/Climate Cymru

Neil Thorns, Director of Advocacy, Communications and Education, CAFOD

Will Snell, Chief Executive, Fairness Foundation

Suzanne Iuppa, Consultant & Mentor, Renew Wales

Darren Moorcroft, Chief Executive, Woodland Trust

Oliver Sidorczuk, Campaign Manager, Zero Hour

Emma Knight, Environment & Sustainability Officer, FAN Community Alliance

Jake Dubbins, Managing Director, Media Bounty & ACT Climate Labs

Sarah Mitchell, Chief Executive, Cycling UK

Luke Murphy, Associate Director, IPPR

Clare Lyons, Director of Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns, Friends of the Earth EWNI

Amiera Sawas, Director of Programmes and Research, Climate Outreach

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