RTE says no to General Election climate debate

Published by Niall Sargent on

January 23rd, 2020

RTE has balked at the idea of holding a standalone climate debate in the run up to the general election next month.

A petition launched earlier this month calling on the national broadcaster to host the debate has gathered over 3,600 signatures.

Signatories want a debate focused solely on the climate crisis in front of an audience largely made up of under-35’s and teenagers to “reflect the disproportionate significance of the climate crisis for future generations”. 

The Uplift campaign is based on two merged petitions, one created by Nikki Ffrench Davis and the second by Professor Barry McMullin of Dublin City University that is addressed to the Director General of RTE Dee Forbes.

The petition itself states that the climate crisis is “entirely different from all other issues” in the general election as it “transcends and dwarfs” all others.

“There can be no enduring solution to housing, healthcare, education, economic development, peace or justice unless there is a successful response to the climate crisis,” the petition states. 

In a letter sent to Prof McMullin today, RTE said that the broadcaster has already extensively prepared to host two leader debates during the campaign that will focus on a broad range of issues.

The letter states that RTE acknowledged the importance of the climate issue during its Climate Week in November during which a range of “engaging programmes, podcasts and online content” were put out.

Several flagship RTE shows will also discuss climate issues during the election cycle, the letter states, that will reflect the “importance and significance of this [climate] issue”.

Real conversation on climate

Speaking to The Green News earlier this weekProf McMullin said that the debate would be an “opportunity” to challenge all parties to state clearly what emissions reductions they will aim to achieve if elected to the next Government. 

“The people who pay the price for inaction today are not the people currently running for election by and large. We have to at least have a conversation about intergenerational justice,” he added. 

To date, Ireland has not held a single-issue climate debate. However, the concept of a climate debate is not unprecedented.  During the early stages of the US Democratic Party primary, Washington state governor Jay Inslee pushed for a climate debate that was ultimately refused by the Democratic National Committee. 

The UK successfully held a televised climate debate on Channel Four in November in the run up to their election. Leaders of the Greens, Labour, Plaid Cymru, the Scottish National Party, and the Liberal Democrats participated.  

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage refused to take part and were replaced with melting ice sculptures. 

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London