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A big year for elections and a big year for climate justice

As half the world’s population heads to the polls, we have an opportunity to elect leaders who act for climate justice.

Written by Julia Kendal | 05 Jun 2024

A sign on a gate that reads polling station.

Credit: Margaret Chandler/Tearfund

June 3 was Earth Overshoot Day for the UK – the date when, if the whole world used resources the way people in the UK do, humanity would exceed what the natural world can produce in one year. We each need food, shelter and energy to survive and thrive, and God made, loves and sustains the air, land, water, plants and animals that we rely on to live. But, Earth Overshoot Day reminds us of the brokenness of our relationship with creation and with each other. For the rest of the year, we are in ‘overshoot’, using resources more quickly than the earth can regenerate them, at the expense of future generations.

And the reason that different countries have different Earth Overshoot Days, is that we are unequal in how we use and regenerate Earth’s resources. For the most part, people living in poverty use the fewest resources but are most impacted by the damage to the earth and the climate. This is not only a climate issue, but an issue of justice.

In 2024, half of the world’s population has an opportunity to act for justice by going to the polls to elect their governments. Every election matters for our societies, economies and the rest of creation. And this year’s elections come at a key moment for climate justice.

Why this year’s elections matter for the climate crisis

The governments elected in 2024 will be in power for most of the rest of this decade. The decisions they make or unmake, reverse or implement, will set the path for the impact we will have on the world’s climate throughout this century.

Governments’ current climate plans mean that we are heading for a devastating 2.5°C of warming by the year 2100. This year, we experienced warming of 1.5°C for more than 12 months for the first time – and the heat was deadly in West Africa. In March, hundreds of people in Mali and Burkina Faso died because of the extreme heat due to climate change. At warming of 2.5°C, many places around the world would become uninhabitable.

But, we have an opportunity to change the course that we are on. All countries are due to produce their updated national climate plans by the end of February 2025, and the governments we elect with our votes will be the ones to publish and carry out these plans. We need them to reduce emissions, phase out fossil fuels and invest in a cleaner, brighter future. We can use our votes to elect leaders who are hopeful, compassionate and will make strong decisions on climate.

This is essential for all of us, because the climate crisis isn’t a distant problem. Half of the world’s population is already highly vulnerable to the climate crisis, and the people worst affected are disproportionately communities living in poverty. The governments elected this year must deliver on their responsibility to provide financial support for those who have been most impacted by climate catastrophe. The earlier we take action, the less it will cost in the long run and the more lives it will save.

Public support for climate action 

This is a critical moment for climate justice. And the UK public agrees, with 70 per cent of people surveyed saying that climate and environment policies are important and will influence how they vote in this election. This wave of support follows years of campaigning and action by communities around the world. Politicians are now more aware than ever of the need for climate action, and this year’s elections are another opportunity for us to act with hope for the world we want and need.

Ask your candidate to act for climate justice

If you get a chance to speak with your candidate (on the doorstep, over the phone, at a hustings event or by contacting them directly), here are a few things you could raise to remind them that this election is critical for climate action:

  • The UK needs to walk the talk by publishing (and carrying out) strong climate plans, ending all new oil and gas production, and investing in an affordable, fair, secure and renewable energy system.
  • It’s vital that the UK delivers on current and future climate finance for the people who are most affected but least responsible for the climate crisis.

Climate hope? 

Earth Overshoot Day is a sombre day. But, if we choose to speak up for climate justice, election day – and the days running up to and beyond it – can be marked by hope for our own generation and for generations to come.

There are other ways you can take action too. Find out more and join us in prayer for the elections and for the climate.

Written by

Written by  Julia Kendal

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