January 27th, 2020
Climate canvassers are knocking on doors around the country urging voters to make climate action a key issue in the upcoming general election.
Rather than campaigning for votes or party allegiance, climate canvassers from Extinction Rebellion (XR) are encouraging voters to press candidates on how they will address the climate and biodiversity crisis.
Through door-to-door interaction and the distribution of leaflets, the campaign hopes that the electorate will ask those running for office “one simple question” about whether or not they will commit to reducing national greenhouse emissions by eight per cent per year – a target that is roughly in line with recent UN recommendations.
“This election needs to be the climate election”
Extinction Rebellion-led climate canvassing started in November and “really ramped up” in January, XR member Shane Roberts says, with other civil society groups recently joining the campaign under the One Future banner.
“We think this election needs to be the climate election,” Roberts told The Green News. “The next election might not be until 2025, and by then it will be much too late to take climate action.”
The typical interaction starts off with a climate canvasser telling voters that they are not affiliated with a political party and then asking if they are interested in or concerned by climate change.
If a voter responds positively, canvassers will encourage them to both question and vote for candidates based on how they plan to address the issue.
Canvassers might also highlight the contrast between the outgoing Government’s current two per cent emission reduction target compared to the eight per cent target supported by the groups.
For XR member Paul McCormack-Cooney, one-on-one conversations on the doorsteps are “productive” and garner interest due to their lack of party presence. “If we have to go to every door and every house in the country maybe that’s what we need to do.”
Climate change in candidates’ ears
Climate activist and mother Francesca Loughran often joins campaigners with her young daughter Maya in tow as she thinks it is important for her daughter to come along as “people resonate a lot more at the door when they see a child”.
“I want candidates to have climate change in their ears and I want them to think that people do care and it is something we’re going to be voting on,” Loughran says.
How effective the canvassing will be is something that campaigners will have to “wait and see on”, says McCormack-Cooney. “You knock on a lot of doors and you don’t get that many answers. When you do get an answer it often might not be a good moment.
“But I think just the fact of someone answering the door and seeing someone giving up their free time to talk about climate change – there’s a communication piece in that of itself,” he adds.