#BorisTheCoward trends as prime minister chickens out of climate debate

PUBLISHED: 10:27 28 November 2019 | UPDATED: 10:27 28 November 2019

Boris Johnson visits flood hit Derbyshire. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA.

Boris Johnson visits flood hit Derbyshire. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

Channel 4 is to host a climate change debate this evening which will focus on how party leaders will tackle one of the key issues for voters in the general election.

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But Boris Johnson and the Brexit Party's Nigel Farage look set to snub the hour-long Emergency On Planet Earth debate.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, Scottish First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, Plaid Cymru's leader Adam Price and Green co-leader Sian Berry have agreed to take part.

Asked whether a Conservative minister, such as former environment secretary Michael Gove, could attend the Channel 4 debate instead of Johnson, a spokeswoman for Channel 4 News said: "Michael Gove is not the party leader."

Invitations to Johnson and Farage remained open, the programme said.

The lack of appearance from Johnson sparked Twitter users to promote #BorisTheCoward, which went on to trend early on Thursday morning.

December's general election comes at the end of a year marked by mass protests and rising public concern over the climate and wildlife crises.

Despite this, the issue garnered only a brief mention in a head-to-head TV debate between Johnson and Corbyn earlier in the campaign.

A poll taken shortly before the election was called revealed the majority of people said climate change would influence how they voted.

Almost two-thirds agreed politicians were not talking about the issue enough in the run-up to the next national vote, the survey for environmental lawyers ClientEarth found.

The first leaders debate on climate change takes place in the wake of the latest warnings from UN experts of rising levels of climate-warming greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the need for swift and dramatic cuts in emissions to avoid the most dangerous impacts of global warming.

Leaders are likely to face questions over the level of ambition and feasibility in their plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the UK to zero overall, and the date they have pledged to achieve it by.

Presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy said leaders would be grilled on how people's lives will have to change - whether it would involve giving up red meat, going on holiday or ending fast fashion.

Plans to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles, cut the carbon from heating homes, plant trees and protect wildlife are also among the subjects they could be quizzed on.

Guru-Murthy said: "This debate has been called for by hundreds of thousands of people from all sorts of different walks of life."

He urged Johnson, who has said he does not want to debate Sturgeon because she cannot become prime minister, to change his mind, promising him he would get a fair hearing.

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