From SNP, Labour to Lib Dem, ahead of the general election on December 12, we ask climate campaigners to tell us who they are voting for and why
Last week, on Friday November 29, UK youth climate protesters went on a school strike across Britain, declaring the vote on December 12 “a climate election”. Why? Well, in the days leading up to this, scientists announced that we’ve probably passed a series of irreversible climate tipping points, while others announced that we’ve hit an all-time high in concentrations of earth-heating greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson, the prime minister of Britain, declined to appear on a Channel 4 election debate about climate change. Quite possibly because he wouldn’t have had a clue what to say.
The environment remains far down on the Tory agenda, with climate only getting ten mentions in their manifesto comapred to Labour’s 59, while opposing parties are making more viable (well, some) proposals for how Britain can either meet the 2050 zero emissions target that Theresa May agreed to back in June (and which even Tories themselves think is not good enough) or better yet, aim for neutrality much before.
Below, we asked eight climate change activists from around the UK to talk us through the various parties’ plans, tell us who has their vote next week, and explain why we need to go to the polling station with the future of the planet at the forefront of our minds. While some of these activists come from groups like Extinction Rebellion, or are #iwill Ambassadors, their votes are personal.
DAZE AGHAJI, 19, LONDON, CLIMATE AND ECOLOGICAL EMERGENCY MEP CANDIDATE – LABOUR
What’s your role in fighting climate change?
Daze Aghaji: I am the XR Youth UK National Regenerative Cultures Coordinator and I ran for the EU elections earlier in May as a climate and ecological emergency independent, being the youngest person to run. I also now work with different organisations as a freelance Climate Activist doing projects that raise awareness. I partly grew up in Skegness, Lincolnshire and I think that experience is why I love this planet so dearly – all the memories of my early teens were connected to nature. But I think my passion isn’t even just about the natural environment but the love I have for humans. I care so deeply about human rights and I see the climate crisis and the government inaction as putting the most basic human rights at risk.
How will you vote next week?
Daze Aghaji: I’m planning to vote for Labour, not because I’m necessarily a fan but because it’s the best option out of the choice. I feel like voting is a short term solution but we should be aiming for radical systematic change that I don’t believe the current political model can achieve. Also, due to the voting system and according to the polls it’s a more tactical option to vote Labour. Although the Greens have a more ambitious carbon-neutral target, I feel like the lack of diversity in the thinking is quite problematic. For example, prominent members of the party saying they would like to ban halal meat, forgetting that this is targeting a specific sector of society that is already marginalised, plus previous comments about the world needing “female leaders” but without saying they need LGBTQ+ and QTPOC, POC, indigenous, working-class and other marginalised group leaders to.
Labour is asking for the closest thing to the system change that I’m hoping for. Although I feel like the net carbon zero deadline is not as ambitious as it should be, they have the social justice element that I feel is missing from other parties’ green policies. Labour hopes to provide more jobs, and also hold producers who damage the environment to account.
How could Brexit affect climate policy in the UK?
Daze Aghaji: Since most of the environmental law in the UK comes from the EU, I think a harsh Brexit could become quite scary. As we are seeing in places like the US, environmental legislation is being repealed and we can’t allow this to happen in the UK. Personally, I am a fond believer of a second referendum. I think when the referendum first came about people were not aware of what leaving the EU actually meant and now that we have a clearer vision of what leaving looks like, this is the time that we can vote and actually be informed. The rise of youth engagement in politics would give us young people that were too young to vote in 2016 the chance to have our say.
JOANA BAPTISTA, 18, OXFORD, ACTIVIST – LIB DEM
Describe your relationship with climate change activism.
Joana Baptista: Aside from making every day switches in my life such as participating in Veganuary, cutting down on fast fashion and making more ecological transport decisions, I think what’s most important to me in terms of climate activism is making people more aware of the climate emergency and what they can do to stop it. I’ve written numerous articles on the subject, gone to marches with my brother, and worked on climate policies both within my school and university and on a political level.
How did you get involved?
Joana Baptista: I guess it all comes down to awareness and education. The more I learnt about the climate crisis, the more anxiety I got over the future of our planet. I remember being in Year Five and learning that areas of trees the size of a football pitch are being burned down every second or so, which was pretty staggering at the time... but there’s nothing like hearing the news that you have until 2030 to save the planet before it becomes irreversibly damaged. When you hear that, it’s pretty impossible to not want to do something about it.
How do you plan to vote in the election and why?
Joana Baptista: I plan to vote for the Liberal Democrats, which are already currently in the majority in my constituency, but only by 800 votes (2017 election). I think that Labour supports the good ideal of making the UK more equal for all, but I don’t see their policies being financially viable, and I think the Conservatives have the reverse problem. Either way, I do not have trust in either of those key political leaders to have my best interests in mind, such as the environment, social equality, and economic growth and stability.
I’m not sure this is the best decision possible in terms of climate change, but it seems like the vote which could make the most difference. I recently took a political stance test and was really surprised with how much I agreed with lots of the Green Party’s policies. However, I can’t see that ever being a useful vote within my constituency, and I think more holistically the Lib Dems’ policies towards climate change are achievable, ambitious and complement policies in other areas.
“Labour's manifesto means we may be able to take a breath and really transform society. It’s hard to organise when you’re starving and sick from a decade of crushing austerity!” – Kieran Kirkwood, Wretched of the Earth
KIERAN KIRKWOOD, 24, LONDON, WRETCHED OF THE EARTH – LABOUR
What kind of activism do you do?
Kieran Kirkwood: I am a member of the grassroots collective, Wretched of the Earth (WOTE). It is often through WOTE that I run workshops and take part in actions which attempt to re-frame the current narrative around climate justice from being white-washed and apolitical into a narrative which understands and centres the experiences of Black, Brown and Indigenous communities in the Global South. WOTE formed because as people from those communities or diaspora communities we felt this message was washed out of the current narrative around climate justice. We feel that to understand and take action around the climate crisis we must know the connection between capitalism, colonialism and climate justice.
How will you vote on December 12?
Kieran Kirkwood: I plan to vote Labour and I want to stress that it is important that people vote against the Tories in marginal constituencies. A Labour government would mean we can actually create policy that genuinely benefits us on the ground, at a grassroots level. Not only will it mean we can create things like a Green New Deal, we will be able to organise at a local level without the crushing pressure of cuts to public services and increases in poverty and inequality under the Tories. I see this every day as a youth-worker who has grown up in Hackney! Policy is not something I tend to get excited about but Labour’s environmental policy seems like something that can actually change lives across the country, globally too. Labour's manifesto means we may be able to take a breath and really transform society. It’s hard to organise when you’re starving and sick from a decade of crushing austerity! I hope it can lead to a transformation of borders, housing, pollution, public services and more.
MEGAN ROSE, 21, DUMFRIESSHIRE, GLASGOW CLIMATE STRIKE ORGANISER, XR, AND GREENPEACE - SNP
How did you get involved with climate change activism?
Megan Rose: After the IPCC report was released in October of 2018 I felt really helpless, so I joined various activism groups with the hope of making our leaders realise the urgency of the climate crisis and implementing the necessary action to meet the Paris agreement.
How do you plan to vote on December 12 and why?
Megan Rose: SNP. Through the youth strikes, I have had the opportunities to meet with many SNP politicians, including Nicola Sturgeon, and I have a good idea of where they stand. SNP in comparison to other political parties are very focused on the climate, and their policies and attitude definitely became more in favour of taking climate action after Labour started taking a more climate centred route. As an activist, I have seen how an SNP parliament reacts to activism and we have managed to change policies and targets here and there, so there is potential to change their stance on certain issues, especially oil. My constituency is also a Tory stronghold where the SNP is the strongest challenger. From a climate perspective it is essential to vote the Tories out as the climate plans they have outlined in their manifesto will not be in any way sufficient. Net-zero by 2050 is a death sentence.
What needs to change in the climate conversation?
Megan Rose: Despite declaring a climate emergency no government is currently treating it as an emergency. I hope whoever ends up in power starts to comprehend our situation and starts acting on the scale that the crisis requires. More specifically our net-zero emissions target needs to be near the 2030 mark rather than 2050. 2050 was the IPCC aim for the world, but if the UK (as one of the richest nations in the world and with the largest wind power resource in Europe) can only reach a 2050 target then there is no hope for other nations with less renewable resources or funds. We need to show other countries a clear path to net-zero in advance of that target and then help those other countries to succeed.
“Climate action is what the people want, and I hope that politicians will respond to this and deliver on their promises. I don’t want to hear empty words; I want to see action” – Taryn Everdeen, campaigner
TARYN EVERDEEN, 18, NORWICH, CAMPAIGNER – LABOUR
What’s your role in climate change activism?
Taryn Everdeen: I am an alumnus of the environmental training programme Bright Green Future, and with them, I created a local action project that was focused on raising awareness of reusable menstrual products. I have attended the climate strikes in the UK, and in St. Louis, Missouri where I made this video. My friend encouraged me to come along to the first of the climate strikes in the UK (and the same friend told me about Bright Green Future). I care about the planet, but until that point, I had never joined a protest or done anything political; my actions had all been personal.
How do you plan to vote?
Taryn Everdeen: Labour. They are the only party with a good chance of winning in my constituency that takes climate change seriously, implementing the Green New Deal, which will tackle social and environmental issues simultaneously.
What are your hopes in terms of UK politics and the environment?
Taryn Everdeen: Seeing people protest on the street and take action in their own lives to reduce their individual impact on the planet is fantastic, but if we are to truly mitigate the effects of climate change, it is essential that we get politicians on board with implementing policies that tackle the sources of the problems directly. Climate action is what the people want, and I hope that politicians will respond to this and deliver on their promises. I don’t want to hear empty words; I want to see action.
CLOVER HOGAN, 20, LONDON, FORCE OF NATURE – LABOUR
How do you campaign against climate change?
Clover Hogan: I’m a climate activist and the founder of Force of Nature – we help young people around the world realise their potential to inspire change and step up, rather than shut down, in the face of the climate crisis.
At 11, I started watching documentaries about our impact on the planet. I felt heartbroken, and angry, yet saw that in the darkness there were activists shining a light on the problems. I wanted to become one. It was while lobbying at COP21, frustrated in my attempts to communicate the urgency of the problems to stuffy dudes in suits, that I realised the greatest threat we face isn’t the climate crisis – but our feeling of powerlessness in the face of it. We are so overwhelmed by its enormity and the comparative smallness of our own actions. This is compounded when people in positions of power fail to act on their promises.
How do you plan to vote on December 12?
Clover Hogan: Definitely not for the British Trump. My vote is for the party that has recognised we’re in a climate emergency and proposes a strategy that treats it as such. Labour all the way.
Why does this feel like the right decision in terms of climate change?
Clover Hogan: Recent analysis shows that the current government is set to miss its climate targets by 50 years. We do not have the luxury of time. This is no longer about the fate of future generations – communities around the world who have contributed least to the crisis are already feeling its worst impacts, and we are hitting irreversible tipping points that will render our world unrecognisable and unlivable for all life on this planet. The UK must launch a Green Industrial Revolution to transform the economy; moving away from one based on limitless growth with finite resources and grossly concentrated wealth, to a regenerative system that serves the majority.
What do you think about the Conservative attitude to climate change?
Clover Hogan: Boris Johnson’s decision to snub the Channel 4 climate debate speaks volumes about just how seriously he and his party are taking this crisis. I implore all Tories, in the interest of this nation’s future and that of its inheritors, to speak out against this ineptitude and fill this moral vacuum – to align with Labour, LibDem and Green Party leaders in the push for a Green New Deal. Today, many young people feel that they’re going to the polls to choose between a climate change denier and seasoned procrastinator. While a handful of politicians have started to sing the right tunes, I hope they act with even a shred of the same urgency as activists. And I hope that those who call BS assume positions of leadership. This is the most urgent cause of our time. We must do everything in our power to mobilise the emerging generation of leaders to become custodians of a future by their own design.
TALIA WOODIN, 20, LONDON, MEDIA COORDINATOR EXTINCTION REBELLION YOUTH – GREEN PARTY
How did you get into joining Extinction Rebellion?
Talia Woodin: Both my parents were hugely involved with Green Party politics and environmental activism throughout my childhood so it was something I was brought up with and always had a drive and passion for. When I moved to London in 2018 to start university I was looking for something more to get involved with as I had felt hugely paralysed and desperate in the face of the climate crisis for a long time. I just happened to come across a non-violent direct action training being held by XR around the time of the declaration of rebellion and so went along. I started by going along to actions and taking photos for the movement but very quickly became more involved and then in April took on a coordinating role with XR Youth.
How are you voting on December 12?
Talia Woodin: I will be voting Green. Having grown up surrounded by party politics I’m hugely aware of the amount of dishonesty and hypocrisy that often occurs and actually have a huge amount of distrust towards the current political system as a result of this, hence why I’ve turned to activism. However, I recognise the importance of this election, especially when it comes to tackling the climate crisis.
Although I’m aware of the positives of tactically voting in order to get the Tories out, the Labour Party have had power in government before and did little to improve on things. The Green Party is the one major political party that has never had a majority in government but has also been the most consistent on their views and approaches towards environmental and social justice throughout their history. This is the reason they will be getting my vote, because as far as party politics goes they have been most consistently authentic.
“Labour is the only party willing to point the finger and actually tax the real culprits of this crisis: the fossil fuel corporations” – Mim Black, Extinction Rebellion Scotland
MIM BLACK, 27, EDINBURGH, EXTINCTION REBELLION SCOTLAND – LABOUR
How are you involved in climate activism?
Mim Black: I am one of the media coordinators for XR Scotland. I joined a year ago and helped nurture it in the beginning. It’s been a complete rollercoaster, but I’ve learned loads. Now we are organising the first Scottish Climate Camp in a DECADE (a la Ende Gelande). We had our first open meeting last night – search Climate Camp Scotland on Facebook. Please come, it’s going to be very fun!
How will you vote on December 12 and how did you vote in the last general election?
Mim Black: Labour. But I voted SNP last time.
Mim Black: Despite them reneging on their 2030 target for net-zero, Labour is the only party willing to point the finger and actually tax the real culprits of this crisis: the fossil fuel corporations. Climate justice is also part of Labour’s manifesto and policies. They are considering how to justly transition away from the fossil fuel industry, a transition which needs to be led by the interests of workers and communities rather than for the pockets of big business. They also have an awareness of the Global North’s responsibility to the countries they have colonised for their resources – and who we continue to colonise and extract from. All that being said, this either-or political smoke and mirrors game is no longer fit for purpose, we need a new way of governing, and that’s why we in XR are asking for a citizens assembly.
The SNP haven’t released their manifesto yet as I am writing this but I have lost a lot of faith in them in the last year. They say all the right things, but they are completely unwilling to take the fossil fuel industry to task. The SNP is committed to big business, to getting every last drop of oil out of the ground whether we go independent or not. They often focus on individual change, distracting us from what’s really going on – and I think the 2045 target is purely a pop at Westminster. Oneupmanship isn’t cute.
What’s your biggest hope for this election regarding climate?
Mim Black: That we actually start to take this crisis seriously and actually put people before billionaires. Fuck the oil barons!
NYASHA DURI, 22, SWEDEN, SUSTAINABILITY RESEARCHER – LIB DEM
How do you fight climate change in your personal and professional life?
Nyasha Duri: Green campaigning, grassroots fundraising, and working on sustainability solutions through environmental science and engineering. I’ve also supported university divestment, venture capital funding for cutting edge cleantech research in partnership with leading corporations in Asia, and renewable energy in Africa. I’ve been recognised by tvebiomovies, WWF, the UN, and the World Bank for my efforts in promoting sustainability. Now I’m that person who interrogates her footprint closely and has been known to make 70-hour bus journeys in the name of trying to avoid flights. It matters to me that we do everything we can. Sadly I don’t always feel we’ll succeed, but I want to be able to tell future generations that we tried.
Who will you vote for?
Nyasha Duri: After careful thought and the usual policy matching tests, I’ll proxy vote for the Lib Dems (tactical voting) seeing as they might help temper one of the larger parties. My incumbent MP/his team has directly responded sufficiently to my scrutiny as I decided who to support. In my area, it’s either them or the Conservatives. There was a slim majority last time so it’s risky to play games. I don’t know if I would say it feels like the right decision seeing as the Lib Dems have let us down before. Still, their record is better than most as we can see on TheyWorkForYou.com. Manifesto wise, it’s good to see they’ve matched the Greens’ carbon chancellor pledge of the £100bn climate fund to invest and jump-start climate action among their other promises. They do need to be more ambitious about the timeline though: we don’t have any more time given the 50ish years spent doing nothing. While I know they won’t win, I know they’ll put pressure on other parties challenging them in ways which are necessary to get the consensus we seek. I’d like to vote Green this time around, but it’s not viable.
What do you think of Tory attitudes to climate change?
Nyasha Duri: Where to begin. Let me preface this by saying that I’m non-partisan and open to at least considering Conservative ideas when they’re not just abjectly unjustifiable. But would a high-level CEO or NHS boss send in their parent to handle the biggest crisis their organisation was facing? It beggars belief that Johnson apparently had something better or more important to do than debate climate change, then went on to threaten Channel 4. Like we’re in 1984. And the less said about Gove the better. I think the Tory attitude is not to care much because they perceive it as an issue which their voter base is less concerned with.
What are your hopes for the future of climate change activism?
Nyasha Duri: My hopes (to name a few) are that we start putting indigenous voices such as Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim at the forefront without just giving lip service, invest in solutions for environmental sustainability across all spheres, and actually make radical changes such as making ecocide a punishable crime for businesses. It’s great that people are making individual sacrifices, but most of the problem is being caused by the industry. UK politics wise I hope we overcome our divide and accept that we all want to work towards a better future.