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New government, new climate story

By David Powell on July 5, 2024

People have voted for bolder, faster climate action. Labour have won a landslide victory in the UK General Election. What does this mean for the climate story?

Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer arrives at Number 10 Downing Street.

Labour has been handed a whopping mandate for its ambitious plans for ‘net zero’ electricity in just five years time, as well as ramping up home insulation and plenty more besides. Climate change was woven through its overall story, and core to its entire plans – in particular the popular policy of Great British Energy.  

The new Parliament will be the most pro-environment Parliament ever. Plenty of strong advocates for climate action will enter the house – not just from Labour, but the Liberal Democrats and of course the four new Green MPs as well. Many of the most pro-climate Conservative MPs held their seats.  Many of the net zero sceptics did not. 

What was the “climate story” of this election?  On one level climate change was a pretty background issue. It was a minor battleground in some of the election debates. But this was an election about the cost of living, and a vote of (no) confidence in the recent record of incumbent governments both North and South of the border.  

Despite the relative quiet around climate this election, we know from our research that something important is happening. Increasingly, people recognise that climate change is happening and expect those in power to get on with dealing with it, as a matter of course.

This shift has been reflected in the public conversation and vote. Attempts by some to polarise on ‘net zero’ failed. There were no ‘Uxbridge moments’. Sunak’s lukewarm language on net zero looks to have been a strategic error.  No one can credibly claim that climate commitments cost votes. As the new government sets about delivering on its bold plans, there’s permission to crack on, and crack on Labour must. 

The UK is off pace on climate action. After years of failed ‘grand visions’ from politicians, getting tangible investment happening now feels vital. Delivery really matters, both domestically and internationally. And that’s not going to be possible on climate change without public engagement

Just about everything that still needs to be done on climate action needs people at the heart of it. Whether that’s the tricky politics of overhauling the planning system to get more renewables built, or getting millions more homes insulated – and plenty more besides – the government needs to listen to and involve people so its policies work. Climate Outreach will continue to work with MPs from all parties to help them tell inspiring and empathetic climate stories right now. 

There’s a huge opportunity for the new government to tell a fresh and popular story about climate and nature. A story of clean energy, clean rivers, and a healthy future for everyone. A story of progress that’s underway, and how action is benefitting our families, homes, neighbourhoods, jobs and economy. Today’s result confirms that this is a story – and a reality – people want.

By David Powell

David leads our advocacy work, championing public engagement and effective climate communications with policy makers, politicians and those who influence them.

David has nearly two decades of experience as a campaigner, communicator, researcher and strategist on environment and climate change. He’s worked as Head of Environment and Green Transition at the New Economics Foundation and senior campaigner on economics and resources at Friends of the Earth. He has a MA in English Literature, an MSc in Environmental Strategy, and a Graduate Diploma in Economics. He’s particularly interested in the intersection between systems change and individual psychology, and how to build campaigns that harness the deeply held concerns we all have about the climate crisis.

Outside of work he hosts the climate psychology podcast, Your Brain on Climate, and until 2022 was co-host of Sustainababble. He is also the chair of Somerset Wildlands, and spends whatever time there is left running and playing the sax.

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