After what has seemed like perhaps the longest election campaign in history (it began way back in the mists of time, on 30 March) the General Election is finally upon us. This Thursday, 7 May, voters across the UK will go to the polls and on Friday, we might know who will be governing us for the next five years (though don’t count on it – there may be a good few days of haggling to come after that).
Like most charities, WWF-UK has been pretty quiet during the campaign. We are a non-party political organisation, so we have no interest in being involved in the day to day campaigning and squabbling between candidates and parties. But we have been reading through the parties’ manifestos, and listening to what leaders and candidates have had to say. And we’ve been comparing what they’re offering us for the next five years with with what we’ve been calling on them to do
Here are our reflections on the campaign:
We haven’t heard a lot about the environment or climate change
Considering the many hours of airtime politicians have had, and the number of opportunities there have been to debate a wide range of issues, we have heard relatively little about the environment during this campaign. There were one or two glancing references to green issues during the leaders’ debates, and spokespeople discussed them in more detail on the BBC’s Daily Politics, but mostly they have been notable by their absence. Why is this? Well part of the blame lies with politicians for not wanting to talk about the environment and climate change, but the media has a responsibility too. In its analysis of party manifestos, it has focused on particular areas and had little to say about others – and the environment has been one of those less discussed areas.
Parties’ manifesto’s contain quite a lot of environmental content
Call it a form of cruel and unusual punishment, but one of my tasks in the last few weeks has been to read through the parties’ manifestos for the coming Parliament – many thousands of words and rafts of pledges and promises. And there is lots about the environment and climate change in them, including a lot that picks up on and takes forward our priorities. Again, it isn’t our job to tell you which manifestos are best, or how you should vote, but if you’re still thinking about your choice now, we’ve set out on our General Election web page where you can find the environmental content in each party’s offer.
Environmental issues matter – the next five years are critical
In order to tackle climate change and reverse the declines of wildlife and habitats, we need action now from governments across the world, including the new UK Government. We know that, and you do too – our supporters are among many millions who support environmental groups in the UK. 2015 is a crucial year – with December’s climate change summit in Paris, agreement of new international Sustainable Development Goals and reform of the EU’s Timber Regulation, which needs to protect the world’s forests better, all in the in-tray for the new Prime Minister and his team (I am assuming it will be a ‘him’, with apologies to Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood and Natalie Bennett).
And in 2015 and beyond, the next Government will also need to make decisions in order to help tackle the illegal wildlife trade, protect our marine environment and fresh water habitats and move us to a ‘greener’ model of managing and running the economy.
Throughout the campaign, we’ve been delighted and grateful that many of you have been using our Manifesto Builder to contact the candidates standing in your own constituencies and ask them what they will do – if elected – to be environmental champions. There’s still time to e-mail your candidates now if you haven’t done so, though bear in mind you may not get a response from them in the final, hectic days before polling day!
We need MPs – of all parties, in government or opposition – who are committed to building a future where people and nature thrive. If we have environmental champions in the corridors of Westminster and Whitehall, we have a greater chance of addressing the challenges we – and our natural world – face.
So, on Thursday, please vote for your planet.