Mark Rylance: ‘Rishi Sunak is taking the country for fools on climate. Here’s how we fight back’

We are all familiar with that morning-after-the-election feeling. When you reach for your mobile half asleep and squint at the headlines, struggling to take in yet another horrendous election result and feeling like a character from a sci-fi film, stranded in an alternative, dystopian version of the future.

Well, there’s a UK general election coming in just over a year, if not sooner, and if we want to wake up to the right kind of future, we better start working for it now. Because we really cannot afford to waste another five years with a government that doesn’t care.

We’ve just been through the hottest summer ever recorded, with wildfires, heatwaves, droughts and floods destroying homes and claiming lives all around the world. Here in the UK, our country seems to be crumbling like the concrete in our schools. Sky-high energy bills, the cost of living, an ailing economy, tonnes of sewage in our rivers – there are huge problems everywhere you look.

But none of this is inevitable. Because these aren’t crises, they’re scandals –  it’s where bad decisions by governments and corporations have led us.

Look at what the current government has been up to. This month, the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, took to the airwaves to announce a major rollback of key climate policies, from home insulation to a phase-out of polluting cars. He claimed it was about being honest about the costs of net zero but he was taking the country for fools. Weakening these policies will leave more households hooked on volatile fossil fuels, our cities with more air pollution and our country lagging behind in the global race to a clean economy. The only real winners are fossil fuel giants.

And this is just the culmination of a litany of failures on climate and nature that has seen the government block affordable renewables, let water firms turn our rivers into open sewers and ignore the science by  opening up the North Sea to more oil and gas drilling. We can’t go on like this – it’s time to demand better, of this government and of every political party.

As the world’s leading energy experts have just reminded us, the solutions to fix the climate crisis are already here. They’re also popular, affordable and bring plenty of other benefits besides cutting emissions. We just need politicians of every party with the will to do it. A strong majority of people in this country support wind and solar, more government investment in home insulation and stronger nature protection.

Fixing our energy-wasting homes and unblocking renewables means affordable bills, a safer climate and creating jobs. Cheaper, better public transport leads to safer, quieter streets and cleaner air. Taxing big polluters like oil giants can help fund climate solutions. And tackling air pollution, cold homes and extreme weather will also ease pressure on our NHS.

None of this is pie-in-the-sky stuff. These are tried and tested solutions, and other countries are already rolling them out. The US has pumped billions into the green economy. Germany has made train travel around the country cheaper for everyone. Sales of heat pumps are taking off all over Europe. And Spain has just banned all new coal, gas and oil production. If they can do it, why can’t we?

The next few years will be crucial to keeping a safe, healthy climate. And the next election is a key moment to ensure whoever wins gets the need to tackle the climate and nature crisis. We simply can’t waste it. We need to make our voices heard right now, at the election and in the years to come. Politicians need to know they are being held to account. That’s why I’ve joined tens of thousands of people in supporting Greenpeace UK’s Project Climate Vote.

Greenpeace is perhaps better known for boarding oil rigs and scaling buildings, but they have always mobilised people to fight for climate action. This time, they’re doing something even more ambitious. They have launched a nationwide door-knocking campaign to recruit at least one million Climate Voters ahead of the next election, and they’re inviting everyone who cares about a healthier, safe and fairer future to take part.

Over the next few weeks and months, thousands of people from all walks of life will go door to door holding conversations about climate, nature and other vital issues on the doorstep. Some of these ‘climate canvassers’ will then train other volunteers to do the same, aiming to create a snowball effect rippling through the country, but especially in those marginal seats where just a few hundreds or thousands of votes will decide the election.

This growing community of Climate Voters will put pressure on all political parties to up their game on climate and nature right now; they’ll vote with climate and nature in mind and crucially hold the next government to account. Climate Voters will give a voice and political agency to a climate majority that already exists in this country, but that’s all too often ignored by politicians. Many MPs know most of the UK public are worried about the climate crisis and want more government action, but they don’t think these are issues people will vote on. We’re going to prove them wrong, and turn the climate majority into a political force all parties will have to reckon with.

Is this a long shot? Perhaps. But there’s too much at stake not to give it a go. And if by doing this we just increase our chances of waking up on the morning after the election to something vaguely resembling hope, it will have been worth it. is the UK’s leading digital-only political website, providing comprehensive coverage of UK politics. Subscribe to our daily newsletter here.