Efforts had been made to contact candidates from other parties, but the absence of representation from what could be considered the more right-wing and typically climate-sceptic parties clearly says something salient about both their assessment of the dangers of climate change and their willingness to address the situation. In addition, none of the candidates who attended are likely to be elected come May, and this may indicate something about the prioritisation of other policies over the climate by those more likely to be elected. Is the climate only being addressed by those needing to seek a greater audience in the hope of election, and if so, then does this inspire hope in a top-down political solution?
Among the issues discussed was fracking, with candidates asked whether they would advocate fracking locally and nationally. Both greens rejected fracking as a solution, while Joe Otten said it was necessary. Oliver Coppard was opposed to fracking in local areas, but maintained that it is the government’s prerogative “to keep the lights on” and that fracking would ensure this. However, he did show support for community energy schemes, and all candidates expressed sympathy with the idea of community farming schemes to tackle the food system’s contribution to climate change.
While all four panelists agreed that tackling climate change was a priority, there was a split in terms of achieving this. Peter Garbutt and Joe Otten in particular clashed, with the latter advocating what Garbutt called “techno-fixes” such as carbon capture and storage. Garbutt claimed that these would keep us “hooked” on fossil fuels and that investment in renewables was the best way forward.
One of the last points discussed was the divestment campaign, which received support from the Green and Labour candidates, who believed that it has the potential to snowball. Joe Otten felt that such a campaign would never effectively reduce investment in fossil fuel companies - missing the point somewhat. The campaign is as much about removing fossil fuel companies’ social license and to spread awareness. Moreover, the fact that divestment is and has happened across the globe contradicts him also.
All in all it was an insightful discussion. Unsurprisingly it was the Greens who had the most pro-climate stance, but Oliver Coppard also came out of the hustings appearing to have a fairly progressive view on climate issues. Joe Otten, who constantly failed to grasp the irony of criticizing Labour and Conservatives for austerity policies, and seemed determined to convey the entire Lib Dem manifesto, failed to inspire much confidence.