Twitter LinkedIn

Main parties to go head-to-head on plans to recover nature and tackle climate crisis at major hustings event

3 June 2024

  • Nature and climate crisis will be in focus on Monday 17th June as the environmental spokespeople of England’s five largest parties are invited to set out how they will recover nature and create healthier wild places to store carbon, help wildlife recover, and boost public health.
  • The debate will take place at Chester Zoo, a world-leading centre for conservation, and will be broadcast online by The Wildlife Trusts
  • The debate comes as 71% of adults in the UK say not enough is being done to protect the environment for future generations.
A coalition of the UK’s major nature and climate groups, including Chester Zoo, The Wildlife Trusts and Wildlife & Countryside Link, have joined forces to stage a landmark General Election event, to put the major political parties in the hot seat on their nature and climate policies. The ‘Big Nature & Climate Debate’ will be staged before a live audience on Monday 17th June and will be broadcast via YouTube at 7pm on Tuesday 18th June. It will provide a unique opportunity for voters to compare parties’ plans to achieve legally binding nature targets and utilise nature’s recovery to achieve net zero commitments.

In 2022, the UK signed an international deal to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030. In England, that promise is underpinned by a legal duty in the Environment Act 2021 to stop the decline of species abundance, and a commitment to protect 30% of the land and sea for nature. These targets will be met or lost in the Parliament elected in this General Election, with the next five years also being crucial to staying on track to achieving net zero by 2050.

With nature and climate groups united in calling for ambitious policies from all parties to meet these targets, the Big Nature & Climate Debate will provide the opportunity for voters to hear directly from politicians about how they intend to address this crisis. This main environmental hustings of the General Election campaign will take place before a live audience at Chester Zoo on the evening of 17 June, and will be shared to thousands more as part of The Wildlife Trusts’ broadcast programme.

Jamie Christon, CEO of Chester Zoo, said:

“As a world-leading conservation and education charity, Chester Zoo is delighted to be stepping forward with the UK’s other major environmental organisations to host this crucial debate. We of course need more than just words though – this event has to be the catalyst for urgent action to tackle the nature and climate crisis. Restoring nature must be right at the top of the agenda for whichever political party forms the next government”.

Craig Bennett, CEO of The Wildlife Trusts, said:

“Over the last few years, opinion polls have consistently shown that British voters are greatly concerned about the climate and nature crises and want our political parties to do more – much more – to tackle both. People are fed up with hearing about river pollution, wildlife declines, floods and drought, and want urgent action. This debate will reveal whether the politicians wanting to form the next UK Government have the ambition, commitment and plans necessary to deliver the enormous change that’s needed to reverse the decline of nature, and protect the country from climate chaos.”

Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife & Countryside Link, said:

“The environment continues to be a top concern for the electorate, and more and more politicians want to be seen as advocates for nature and climate. But what are the political parties’ plans? Will they be ambitious enough to meet the 2030 target to halt nature’s decline? The parties have begun to set out environment plans, but significant gaps remain across the board, from investment in wildlife recovery to marine protection. The public deserve to know what the contenders to be the next Environment Secretary have to offer before they decide how to vote in the General Election. In the Big Nature & Climate Debate, we’ll give the politicians a chance to set out how they would rise to the historic challenge of reversing the decline of our natural world.’’


To register interest in attending the debate, please fill out this form by 1pm on Thursday 13th June. The debate will run from 6 to 7pm on Monday 17th June, with a follw up debrief session with eNGO CEOs taking place from 7 to 7.35pm.

If you can't attend the national debate, why not organise your own or attend one local to you? Find out all you need to know through the Climate Coalition hub here.

Notes to editors:

1. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokespeople from the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens and Reform have been invited to attend the debate.

2. The debate is being hosted by Chester Zoo and will be broadcast online on 18th June by The Wildlife Trusts. The following organisations are also partners to the debate: Wildlife & Countryside Link, The Climate Coalition, WWF-UK, RSPB, National Trust, Marine Conservation Society, Rewilding Britain, Woodland Trust, WWT, Hope for the Future, Green Alliance, Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM), Surfers Against Sewage.

3. The debate will be chaired by Sarah Mukherjee MBE, CEO of IEMA and former BBC Environment correspondent.

4. The live audience on the 17th will be drawn from members of the public, alongside the membership lists of the partner organisations, selected with a view to demographic and political balance. Anyone will be able to view the event from home through The Wildlife Trusts broadcast on the 18th.

5. Additional quotes from debate partners:

Laura D'Henin-Ivers, CEO for Hope for the Future, said:

‘‘Constructive dialogue between citizens and their elected representatives is vital to the functioning of our democracy, and to the future of our planet. We are the UK’s only charity dedicated to training and supporting people to engage in effective and constructive conversations with their local politicians on climate and nature. We're excited to be involved in this debate, a pivotal moment for the public to use their voice and tell decision makers how important climate and nature is in how they cast their votes."

WWT Chief Executive Sarah Fowler said

“Our planet is changing at a dramatic speed because of climate change and human development, forcing us to adapt and search out solutions with urgency. Our neighbourhoods are flooding with frightening frequency and intensity, our cities are overheating, our rivers are stagnating and our farmers are struggling to grow our food. Nature is in crisis, and we’re all feeling the effects.

“But there is hope; and you’ll find it wherever land meets water. Wetlands are weapons of mass creation; they're mood-boosting, flood-busting, water-purifying, carbon-storing ecosystems that offer a home to 40% of the world’s species.

“With an era-defining election just around the corner, all politicians need to recognise the power of wetlands and make firm commitments to restore nature now. Put simply, we can’t survive without nature – and nature can’t survive without wetlands. We’re excited to be a part of this debate, to advocate for wetlands, and advocate for a future where both nature and people prosper.”

6. The policy asks made by nature and climate organisations, to be articulated at the Restore Nature Now march in London on 22nd June, are for politicians to commit to:
• A pay rise for nature - the nature and climate-friendly farming budget doubled.
• Make polluters pay - new rules to make polluters contribute to nature and climate recovery
• More space for nature - to expand and improve protected areas and ensure public land and National Parks contribute more to recovery.
• A right to a healthy environment - an Environmental Rights Bill, which would drive better decisions for nature, improve public health and access to high-quality nature.
• Fair and effective climate action - increasing home energy efficiency, supporting active travel and public transport, and replacing polluting fossil fuels with affordable renewables.

7. Chester Zoo ( is a world-leading conservation and education charity that’s committed to preventing extinction and dedicated to raising awareness of key conservation and environmental challenges.  The zoo’s 128-acre site in Chester, which is home to more than 37,000 animals and more than 500 species, is where this species-saving work is made possible. As a not-for-profit, the zoo ploughs everything into its conservation mission, both here in the UK and around the world.  It works with more than 3,000 species globally, including 140 international animal conservation breeding programmes, which are ensuring the survival of species on the very brink of extinction. It’s also home to five national plant collections, comprising of more than 1,000 species.

    Share this page

    Share on Facebook   Tweet this   Share on LinkedIn

    Latest Press Releases