Tens of thousands sign petition urging politicians to debate climate crisis ahead of election

Tens of thousands of people have signed an online petition calling for the leaders of the major political parties to hold a head-to-head TV debate focused on the climate crisis.

It came as much of the Midlands remained under water on Friday, as the week ended with yet more of the heavy rain which has caused major flooding across the country.

Roads in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire were closed off, while homes and businesses were threatened by the rising waters.

And experts have warned that this kind of extreme weather event is only going to get more common as the climate crisis takes its toll.

Birmingham schoolgirl Scarlett Westbrook, aged 15, is the Midlands spokesperson for the UK School Climate Network, which helped launch the petition.

Credit: 38degrees.org.uk

“A debate on climate is necessary because we need parties to clearly outline what their stance on the climate is,” she said.

“We can’t really be guided by what’s deemed to politically possible, when we need what’s scientifically necessary.

“Politics by definition is the process by which conflict is resolved and this is arguably the biggest crisis we’ve ever faced.

“We need parties to be really clear on this and answer to the people on what they’ll do.”

Environmental heavyweights including the WWF, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have thrown their weight behind the petition too.

  • Scarlett Westbrook, UK School Climate Network's Midlands spokesperson:

The latest floods come just two weeks after heavy rains caused rivers to burst their banks across the country.

Friends of the Earth’s Midlands campaigner Richard Dyer told ITV News Central that the recent floods had brought home to people in the region that climate change was already having a very real effect.

“This week has really highlighted how serious the climate issue is for people in the Midlands,” he said.

“We’ve seen these huge and very worrying floods in Derbyshire for example, and in other parts of the country as well. So people have really seen what sort of weather events we could expect in future.

“It’s absolutely crucial that we hear what politicians have got to say on this, what policies they’re going to put in place, what decisions they’re going to make on housing, on energy, on transport and farming - all these issues that are crucial about climate change and nature.”

Flooding in Worcester at the end of October. Credit: PA

The Labour Party, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party told ITV News Central they supported the idea of a climate debate, and would be keen to take part.

A Liberal Democrat spokesman said: “Tackling environmental issues and climate change have been part of our policy for decades."

“We see the climate crisis as a priority and there absolutely should be a debate.”

Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party, said: “This is the climate election. Time is running out and so it is absolutely vital that this debate takes place."

A Labour spokeswoman said: "We would absolutely welcome the chance to take part in a TV debate on climate change.

"This is one of, if not the, most pressing issues facing the country - and the planet - at the moment, and in light of the floods in recent weeks it's more important than ever."

“We know that more than half of voters say the climate crisis will influence how they vote in this election. It is only right that they hear the parties set out their environmental credentials.”

A spokesman for the Brexit Party said: "We would consider it, though of course it's not our key priority."

The Conservatives Party has yet to respond to requests for comment.