With Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage refusing to take part, Channel 4’s climate debate was a pretty straightforward affair, with the leaders of the Greens, Labour, Plaid Cymru, Scottish National party and Liberal Democrats competing to outdo each other on climate promises, rather than attacking anyone’s record.

Overall pitch

Berry: Only the Greens will put the climate and biodiversity crises at the very top of the government’s priorities, and other parties are only taking these issues seriously now because the Greens have won the argument.

Corbyn: Unlike the Tories, Labour has a climate plan and it will create huge numbers of jobs in a “green industrial revolution” encompassing offshore wind farms, housing upgrades, nationalised railways and energy, and a lot of new trees.

Price: The Plaid Cymru leader made a strong pitch that Wales has been neglected by Westminster governments handing out infrastructure investment, which is vital to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Sturgeon: Scotland is already a leader in onshore and offshore wind, and could go much further in renewable energy generation, as well as tree-planting and nature conservation.

Swinson: The Liberal Democrats have traditionally been the strongest on green issues among the three main parties but have struggled to regain lost ground after taking part in the coalition, which failed to fulfil its promise to be “the greenest government ever”. Swinson’s commitments, for instance on achieving net zero only five years before the Tories, looked less impressive when compared with other parties.

Best line

Berry: The Greens have had the climate at the top of their agenda for years while the others are just catching up, Berry pointed out: “Do you trust them to get this done without more Greens in parliament?”

Corbyn: “This election is the last chance to tackle our climate emergency.” Corbyn did a good job of showing that he knows the issues, even if he didn’t have answers for all of them.

Price: “After Scotland, Wales has the best resources [for renewable energy]. Wales was the cradle of the industrial revolution – and can be of the next one.” The country famous for coal can generate renewable energy and green jobs.

Sturgeon: “COP26 will be in Glasgow – Scotland will be leading the way.” Next year, a international conference called COP26, where governments from every country will gather to determine the fate of the Paris climate agreement, will be hosted by the UK in Glasgow. Sturgeon made it clear she will make the most of that international stage, and the Tories may regret their decision to award host status to the city.

Swinson: Pointed out that small contributions by individuals are not enough – we need systemic change, and only politicians can achieve that. “Making it easier and cheaper to make the right thing, so it becomes the obvious decision to make.”


Berry: This debate was one for the Greens to shine, so in response to any commitment made by other parties – on how soon to reach net-zero carbon, on how much money to invest, on how to protect nature – Berry’s trump card was that the Greens would go further and faster.

Corbyn: Labour put the “green industrial revolution” at the top of its manifesto, and Corbyn has a personal image for green living, from his allotment to his self-professed “miserable-ness” in refusing to turn on the heating. Corbyn would also seek international cooperation on the global problem of the climate.

Price: Stressed Wales’s potential contribution and future growth from renewable energy.

Sturgeon: Scotland has a strong story on renewable energy. Just don’t mention North Sea oil and gas.

Swinson: Frequent flyer levy on anyone taking more than three international return flights a year.

Worst moment

Berry: Failed to explain why scrapping HS2 was a good idea, when calling for less flying.

Corbyn: Defending nationalisation of the electricity grid, which Price suggested would divert investment from renewables, by claiming it would be easier to sell biogas back into the grid.

Price: A rather feeble brag of claiming green credentials for changing his reusable nappies for his newborn son.

Sturgeon: Refusing to directly address the question of North Sea oil and gas, preferring vague references to a “just transition” to low-carbon jobs.

Swinson: Floundering while trying to explain why the Lib Dems’ target of net zero by 2045 was so much better than the Tories’ 2050 target.

Unanswered questions

Berry: Is it realistic to borrow £1tn over the next decade?

Corbyn: Does the party back Heathrow expansion, which half of Labour MPs voted for, and nuclear power?

Price: Can Wales make the transition from a former coal-based economy to low-carbon industry?

Sturgeon: North Sea oil and gas.

Swinson: The Lib Dem record in the coalition.


Berry: Berry showed a depth of familiarity with the issues that is her party’s key selling point.

Corbyn: Believable on these issues, and with a strong manifesto on the green industrial revolution.

Price: Hammered home the point that Wales’s potential has been overlooked and undermined by Westminster.

Sturgeon: SNP are comfortable on renewables and the natural environment, less so on the North Sea.

Swinson: Struggling to reclaim what used to be an easy win for the Lib Dems in being one of the greenest parties – now looking outflanked by Labour.


Boris Johnson, represented by a melting ice block. The Tories’ decision not to engage on this vital issue shows they are just not interested in pitching to younger voters, who rate the environment as a leading concern. They have decided that the leave voters they are after won’t be basing their votes on this, and their climate plans don’t stand up to scrutiny.


Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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