David Attenborough warns politicians may not prioritise climate action

Sir David Attenborough warns politicians may not prioritise climate action because five-year governments won’t make long-term plans required

  • The 93-year-old spoke at the Climate Assembly UK in Birmingham earlier today
  • Sir David thanked the 110 members of the public for agreeing to take part
  • But he warned standard five-year terms of government were hindering progress

Sir David Attenborough has warned that politicians may not prioritise climate action due to short lifespan of governments.

The 93-year-old was speaking at the Climate Assembly UK conference which began in Birmingham earlier today.

He warned that the standard five-year terms of government mean that ministers are unlikely to make the long-term plans needed to tackle environmental issues.

Sir David Attenborough was speaking at the Climate Assembly UK conference which began in Birmingham earlier today

The conference, which will run over the next four weekends, was commissioned by six parliamentary select committees and is the first UK-wide citizens’ assembly on climate change.

It was introduced to discuss how the UK can meet the Government’s legally binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero overall by 2050.  

Sir David gave a welcome speech to the 110 selected attendees during which he said: ‘If you have a Parliament that is of a fixed length of five years, it’s very difficult to persuade politicians that they should give money and time and attention and worry about an issue which is not going to come to a climax – and people won’t know if it is successful or not successful – for 10 years hence, 15 years hence.’

He warned that the standard five-year terms of government mean that ministers are unlikely to make the long-term plans needed to tackle environmental issues 


Sir David gave a welcome speech to the 110 selected attendees at the conference that was introduced to discuss how the UK can meet the Government’s legally binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero overall by 2050

An election must be held every five years unless two-thirds of MPs vote for an early poll, according to the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011.

But he added that the nation ‘ought to be extremely grateful’ to the assembly for taking climate change seriously.

He said: ‘I truly think that the fact that you’ve given up time to come here and take this seriously is of the greatest importance.

‘And the rest of the people in this country ought to be extremely grateful to you, as indeed, am I.’

The event, which will run over the next four weekends, was commissioned by six parliamentary select committees and is the first UK-wide citizens’ assembly on climate change

Sir David previously urged both politicians and the public to listen to the recommendations of the assembly 

Sir David previously urged both politicians and the public to listen to the recommendations of the assembly.

Speaking ahead of his appearance at the assembly, the veteran naturalist and broadcaster said: ‘I am grateful to the 110 people from all corners of the United Kingdom who are giving up their weekends to take part in this very important discussion of how we in the UK reach our net zero emissions target. 

‘These people have been picked to represent our population as a whole, they come from all walks of life, and together they will deliberate carefully on behalf of us all.

‘We should listen closely to their recommendations.’

Those attending will hear from experts and advocates about cutting emissions in areas such as buildings, transport and consumption of goods. Pictured: Paul Ekins, Fernanda Balata and Modi Mwatsama during a panel session discussion

Those taking part were chosen from more than 1,800 people who responded to invitations that were sent out to 30,000 UK households selected at random.

They are representative of the UK’s population in age, gender, ethnicity and education.

But they are also representative of the country in terms of how concerned they are about climate change.

Organisers said that the group was made up of three people who were not at all concerned, 16 not very concerned, 36 fairly concerned, 54 very concerned and one who did not know.

Sir David will not be speaking to members of the assembly about how to reach the net zero target himself.

But they will hear from experts and advocates about cutting emissions in areas such as buildings, transport and consumption of goods as well as giving their views on a range of options presented to them for tackling climate change.

The recommendations made by the assembly will be published in a report in April.

The £520,000 scheme has been funded through £120,000 from the select committees’ research budgets and two philanthropic foundations – the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and the European Climate Foundation.

They have had no input into the working of the assembly.

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