Climate change is taking centre stage in the election as party leaders face questions about how they will tackle the issue in a TV debate on Thursday night.
Parties will vie for the votes of those concerned about the environment in what, despite subjects such as Brexit and the NHS, has been dubbed by some as “the climate election”.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Brexit Party’s Nigel Farage look set to snub the hour-long Emergency On Planet Earth debate on Channel 4 News.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, Scottish First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, Plaid Cymru’s leader Adam Price and Green co-leader Sian Berry have agreed to take part.
Asked on Wednesday whether a Conservative minister, such as former environment secretary Michael Gove, could attend the Channel 4 debate instead of Mr Johnson, a spokeswoman for Channel 4 News said: “Michael Gove is not the party leader.”
Invitations to Mr Johnson and Mr Farage remained open, the programme said.
December’s General Election comes at the end of a year marked by mass protests and rising public concern over the climate and wildlife crises.
Despite this, the issue garnered only a brief mention in a head-to-head TV debate between Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn earlier in the campaign.
A poll taken shortly before the election was called revealed the majority of people said climate change would influence how they voted.
Almost two-thirds agreed politicians were not talking about the issue enough in the run-up to the next national vote, the survey for environmental lawyers ClientEarth found.
The first leaders debate on climate change takes place in the wake of the latest warnings from UN experts of rising levels of climate-warming greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the need for swift and dramatic cuts in emissions to avoid the most dangerous impacts of global warming.
Leaders are likely to face questions over the level of ambition and feasibility in their plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the UK to zero overall, and the date they have pledged to achieve it by.
Presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy said leaders would be grilled on how people’s lives will have to change – whether it would involve giving up red meat, going on holiday or ending fast fashion.
Plans to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles, cut the carbon from heating homes, plant trees and protect wildlife are also among the subjects they could be quizzed on.
Mr Guru-Murthy said: “This debate has been called for by hundreds of thousands of people from all sorts of different walks of life.”
He urged Mr Johnson, who has said he does not want to debate Ms Sturgeon because she cannot become prime minister, to change his mind, promising him he would get a fair hearing.
Rebecca Newsom, head of politics at Greenpeace UK, which backed a public petition to secure the debate, said: “The climate and nature emergency is a top concern for UK voters and an issue our politicians will have to put at the heart of their economic strategy for the foreseeable future.
“They must seize this opportunity for a greener and fairer future.
“The public will be looking to see who among the party leaders understands the gravity of the situation and has the policies and conviction to tackle it.”