For as long as I have been on this planet, politicians and the media have got away with leaving climate change at the bottom of the national agenda.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tells us the window of opportunity for action will be gone within a decade. Young people who will live through climate catastrophe understand that, unless bold and immediate action is taken, we are running out of time to address this existential crisis.

And it’s not just young people. Eight out of ten Kiwis see climate action as important, and last year 170,000 protestors took to the streets in frustration with climate inaction. Less than half the population thinks Aotearoa is on the right track to reduce emissions.

Voters deserve a climate debate, so they can decide whether political candidates have robust plans to act on the climate crisis and ensure a just, fair transition for workers and communities – or if they will simply kick the can down the road, leaving my generation to bear the consequences.

On Tuesday, TVNZ launched its Your Vote 2020 coverage. As a public broadcaster, they have both an opportunity and a responsibility to cover climate change. John Campbell, planned host of one of TVNZ’s election debates, regularly talks about the importance of climate change, and only this week implored viewers to care, saying: “It’s our actual lived future we’re talking about. Communities will be lost and displaced… This is our future and the risk is manifestly greater if we continue as business as usual.”

If voters want politicians to act on the climate catastrophe that TVNZ warns viewers about so often, they need an election debate on climate, so they can decide who they will trust to act appropriately on the climate crisis.

This election cycle will determine whether the economic response to Covid-19 will be used to build a clean, low-carbon future, or will leave our generation with not only an economic debt to pay, but an ecological one as well.

Seven out of 10 New Zealanders think climate change needs to be part of the economic recovery to Covid-19. Opportunities to build from the ground up seldom come around – this moment is unique. The moment to invest in a low-carbon future is now, and this election cycle is key. This opportunity won’t come around again.

People everywhere are hurting from pollution and climate disasters, yet our political and media establishment has routinely ignored the climate crisis, the greatest existential threat of our lifetimes. The absolute least major media outlets can do is facilitate a national conversation about the climate crisis for the candidates.

At a climate debate, voters can see candidates seeking to lead our nation grilled on their plans to act on and respond to the climate catastrophe, and ensure my generation has a stable climate, clean air and water, good jobs, and a liveable future.

Our generation’s survival will require mobilising every aspect of society and economy. It can’t be discussed in 30-second sound bites. New Zealanders have watched as both politicians and the media have refused to cover the problem with the severity and intentionality that it deserves.

We’ve been watching as at least 33 people lost their lives in the Australian bushfires and three billion animals perished or were displaced. We’ve been watching as storms, droughts and flooding across Aotearoa worsen every year.

We need each and every candidate to participate in an open and transparent climate debate, so we can judge for ourselves who we’ll trust to fight for our futures in – and out – of the so-called House of Representatives, and who will prevaricate and procrastinate.

Let’s have a climate debate.

By Adam Currie – 350 Aotearoa Campaigns and Communications Advisor