The five contenders for the leadership of the Conservative Party were challenged by a Scottish teenager on their environmental priorities and a new net zero carbon emissions goal.
During a televised debate, Erin, aged 15, asked if they would promise to make the environment a top priority and whether they would commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2025.
It follows the government’s target for net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
None of the candidates agreed to bring the deadline forward, which did not impress Erin, who said she was asking her question on behalf of youth strikers all over the UK.
With regards to tackling climate change, International Development Secretary Rory Stewart said he wanted to double the amount of money spent on climate and the environment and is “deeply proud” of the 2050 target.
He added: “The 2050 target is the most ambitious target so far set by any advanced industrial economy. We will be hosting the climate summit. This is a country that can take the lead on solar technology, we’ve got fantastic resources in the North Sea for carbon capture and storage, for offshore wind. I would like to make us the leader in the world in driving green and environmental change.”
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the UK has addressed the climate and environmental issues over the last few years “but nowhere near enough”.
He added: “We absolutely need to become carbon neutral. Everyone understands it will take some time but we have to be a lot more ambitious, especially in terms of renewable energy, in terms of helping people to buy electric cars and also to charge electric cars. We can be ambitious and we can at the same time create a lot more jobs and be a world leader.”
Foreign Affairs Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the fundamental matter is the trust between teenagers and “all of us here who are in our 40s and 50s”.
He added: “They say, we are going to be around in 50 years’ time, I don’t know if you are going to be but we want to know if the planet is going to be there and if you are going to look after the planet properly.
“I certainly will commit to the net zero by 2050… We may well be the first country in the world to legally commit to net zero by 2050 and we need to do more.”
Environment Secretary Michael Gove praised the people who went on the climate strikes for raising awareness about climate change.
He said: “As an Environment Secretary, I have introduced a 25-Year Environment Plan to ensure that we help increase the amount of energy that’s generated by renewables but also we do everything from restoring the habitats, the trees and forests, which act as carbon sinks, to making sure that we rid our air of the pollution that is choking the lungs of young people and also rid our seas of the plastic, which is a scourge.
“As an Environment Secretary, I have one of the best jobs in the world because I can do everything I can in order to make sure that your generation get a cleaner and greener planet.”
MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip Boris Johnson promised he will put the environment “at the centre of my programme”.
When asked if he would stop the Heathrow expansion as prime minister, Mr Johnson said: “I still have grave concerns about the air quality impacts and the noise pollution impacts. As you know, court cases are now proceeding and as prime minister I will be following those very closely indeed.
“But in reducing CO2, look at what we did in London. While the population of London increased by 200,000… we cut CO2 emissions by 14%. And we did that through technology.”
The third round of voting is to take place later today between 3pm and 5pm and the MP with the lowest number of votes will be out of the leadership race.