Some of the UK’s largest environmental organisations have come together ahead of the COP28 summit to call for voting reform to help tackle the climate crisis.

Organisations backing the campaign, initiated by cross-party campaign group Compass, include Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Green New Deal Rising, and Rapid Transition Alliance.

Campaigners say the UK’s First Past the Post (FPTP) voting system acts as a political stranglehold that prevents governments from taking meaningful action on climate, locking us into a fossil-fuelled status quo.

Our voting system’s focus on swing seats and their constituents reduces the scope of political debate, excludes vast swathes of voters and gives the already rich and powerful, especially party donors and media magnates, a disproportionate influence over our politics.

To win under FPTP you have to promise this small group of voters that you won’t take the necessary action to address climate change.

FPTP also discourages the kind of cooperative, cross-party working that will be necessary to tackle issues as all-consuming as the climate crisis.

Recent election results show that parties more likely to have green policy agendas are disadvantaged by FPTP. In 2019, The Conservatives needed just 38,000 votes per MP, while Labour needed 53,000, the Lib Dems 250,000 and the Greens 865,000.

Countries with proportional representation systems have slowed their carbon dioxide emissions more than four times as quickly as winner-take-all countries.

Between 1990 and 2007, as carbon emissions were rising, the increase in carbon emissions of countries with winner-takes-all voting systems was statistically predicted to be almost 5 times higher (at 45.5%) than countries with fully proportional voting systems at 9.5%.

Studies have also found that use of renewable energy is 117% higher in countries with fully proportional systems compared to countries with majoritarian voting systems.

Campaigners are asking supporters to sign a petition to Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet ministers responsible for climate change to urge them to back voting reform as the cornerstone of action on the climate emergency.

Compass has also produced a report, Democratise to Decarbonise, containing exclusive new research that reveals how FPTP prioritises the views of climate sceptics simply based on where they are in the country – not how many of them there are.

Rebecca Newsom, Head of Politics at Greenpeace UK, said: 

“Many of us across the UK – no matter who we vote for – are horrified at the increasing scale and intensity of extreme weather events on our screens and in our neighbourhoods. Red alert storms and flooding claiming lives in the UK; deadly wildfires and heat waves destroying lives and livelihoods around the world. And it’s getting worse. But when it comes to elections, so many votes cast for politicians standing to take climate action are lost due to our winner-take-all First-Past-the-Post system. 

“It can’t be right that when people exercise their democratic right, their vote effectively counts for nothing after the count: especially when there’s often only a few hundred votes between a winner and a loser. Proportional representation is not only fairer, but it would supercharge people power in the UK: ensuring that every single voice is heard and the issues they care about represented in Parliament. So Greenpeace is proud to support Compass’ call for a just democratic system to help deliver climate justice and empower all of those demanding urgent action to tackle the climate crisis.”

Hannah Martin, Co-Director of Green New Deal Rising, said:

The climate crisis demands bold and immediate action – but our First Past the Post voting system is woefully ill-equipped to deliver any meaningful change. Our crooked voting system prioritises short-term political gain over the long-term priorities of people and the planet. 

“Our leaders struggle to think beyond the confines of an election cycle while the views of those who want climate action the most are disregarded simply because of how we count their votes.

“The climate crisis will affect all of us – no matter who we vote for. That’s why we need a political system grounded in consensus-building and cross-party cooperation capable of facing up to the challenges of climate change and delivering a Green New Deal.” 

Andrew Simms, coordinator of Rapid Transition Alliance, said:

“Any democracy that sits back and lets the planet burn cannot reasonably claim to represent the best interests of its people. Our creaking political system can’t keep up with the rapid pace at which the climate is changing – it’s time for a new approach, and now.

“We need a big national conversation about the possibilities and difficulties of rapid transition, but such discussions are completely impossible under our current First Past the Post voting system. We must ditch this zero-sum way of doing politics in favour of a proportional system that emphasises compromise, consensus and coalition-building.”

Neal Lawson, Director of Compass, said: 

“The woefully inadequate response of our politicians to the climate crisis is a consequence of a broken politics – and just changing the party pulling the levers in Whitehall will not fix that.

“Westminster as it is, regardless of who is in power, can only facilitate short-term, inadequate nudges in the direction of progress, not wholesale reform. Our ability to win climate justice in this country rests on breaking the stranglehold of FPTP and our centralised, and narrow politics .”

-ENDS-

For more information please contact: 

Harry Gold, Media and Press Officer at Compass: harry@compassonline.org.uk, 07500560643