March 28, 2024

How Do We Make This A Climate Election?

Our Communications Officer Jamie Sims writes about the connections between tackling the cost of living crisis and a green transition in the run-up to the 2024 General Election.

In the UK, and around the world, this coming year will be crucial in determining the future course of politics. By some estimates, 2024 will be the biggest year for elections globally in human history, with hundreds of millions of people set to head to the polls. The outcomes of these elections will have a crucial role in shaping the world’s collective response to the climate crisis. It is looking increasingly likely that the next UK General Election election will be fought over the cost of living - but where does that leave climate and nature? 

The next General Election will take place this year. It looks like the window for calling a vote in May alongside local elections has closed, pointing to an Autumn election. The polls indicate a likely end to over 13 years of Conservative-led governments, though this is not a foregone conclusion and voting preferences can change a lot over the course of a year - especially in a hotly contested election campaign.

Any election brings all sorts of issues to the forefront as political parties lean on their strengths and attack the perceived weaknesses of rival parties. However, polling suggests the economy - and especially the ongoing cost of living crisis - may dominate the debate. An Ipsos poll shows that cost of living is a top priority for voters, with 77% of those polled thinking the current government is doing a bad job. The importance of cost of living for voters is not surprising - in recent years, rising energy and food costs have hit all of us, and inflation has eroded the real value of wages. Research by Warm This Winter has revealed how hidden tariffs and costs in our energy bills cost people hundreds of millions of pounds a year, in addition to steadily rising prices for gas and electricity itself. The energy crisis has a stark human cost, with health problems, damp and mould, and thousands of deaths associated with cold homes. 

No doubt climate and nature issues will play a significant role, and we believe that savvy interventions by environmental campaigners and NGOs can keep it on the agenda as the election campaign unfolds. Concern for the environment has risen in recent years and there is wide support for a more ambitious agenda on reducing carbon emissions. Our approach at HFTF hinges upon the idea of finding a common ground topic with our politicians as the bedrock for a long term, productive relationship. More often than not, we work with constituents to identify an initial common ground area which is peripheral to climate change in a traditional sense, like fuel poverty or access to cheaper, more efficient public transport. We'll work with our partners in this election year to identify key issues for constituents to engage their MPs and Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs) on, as a way of raising the importance of climate issues in the election, and making a strong start on building relationships with the new intake of MPs.

However, we are likely to see cost of living and other day-to-day issues pitted against climate action. We’ve already seen some of this in Rishi Sunak’s attack on recycling and an imaginary ‘meat tax’, and in media criticism of ULEZ and other measures to tackle air pollution. Expanding oil and gas production is being presented as the best means of driving down household energy bills, even though these new extraction projects will take years to get up and running and will sell fossil fuels on the global market with little to no impact on domestic prices. While the most recent Budget did extend the windfall tax on oil and gas profits, it did little else to indicate a shift towards ambitious climate action.

But a convincing argument can be made that the solutions to the climate crisis and to rising living costs overlap. Making this case will be vital to changing the conversation throughout the election period.

Hope for the Future, like many other community groups and environmental campaigns, has been making the link between climate and cost of living for a long time. In 2022, we organised a community event with a diverse range of groups in West Bromwich, highlighting the ways in which rapidly scaling up renewables, retrofitting homes, and improving energy efficiency could reduce costs for households. We’ve also worked with the United For Warm Homes campaign, providing support to Friends of the Earth to help them put forward the case for upgrading our housing stock, transforming lives blighted by cold, damp homes while reducing the use of fossil fuels. We are also a proud member of the Warm This Winter coalition, offering training and support to member organisations and their supporters on communicating with politicians about upgrading Britain’s housing stock. . 

It is vital to reshape the narrative and let politicians and parliamentary candidates know that voters understand the connections between quality of life and climate action, and expect to see policy proposals which address these opportunities. 

Here at HFTF we offer a range of training, webinars, tailored support and materials that can help you to take the first steps towards influencing your elected representatives and candidates, whether you are an individual, a community group or an environmental campaigning organisation. If you would like to learn more about how we can help please get in touch with us for training and tailored support by sending us a message at or following one of our social media channels below.





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