The debate was heated when people in a village near Petersfield quizzed a parliamentary hopeful about the climate crisis.

Questions about the government’s green policies were top of the agenda when Andrew Griffith came to South Harting.

The village – like much of the Rother Valley, Milland and Fernhurst – has been subjected to boundary changes and is now in the Arundel and South Downs constituency.

So the meeting was a chance for many villagers to meet the man hopeful of retaining his seat for the Conservatives on July 4 –  while calling his party to account for their environmental record over the last 14 years.

The meeting was chaired by Rother Valley resident Rupert Grey, chair of the not-for-profit Nekton Foundation which aims to accelerate the scientific exploration and protection of the oceans.

Mr Griffith is used to meeting constituents and meeting people on the patch as he’s a long-serving MP who made was minister for science, research and innovation last November.

But that doesn’t mean every conversation is eye-to-eye and he faced some far-reaching questions with more than 100 green-minded villagers in the crowd.

Mr Griffith was reminded that the UK was once a world leader in responding to the climate crisis, becoming the first country to pass climate change legislation in 2008.

A net zero emissions law was passed in 2019 in another first while greenhouse emissions were reduced by 41 per cent between 1990 and 2016 in another impressive achievement.

But a lot of good work was undone three years ago when the Conservative government “had an abrupt change of direction” and reversed some of its policies. Targets were watered down, new oil licenses were granted and carbon tax wasn’t increased.

Subsided for renewables went down while those for the fossil fuel industry increased by £2bm in 2021 for new extraction and mining.

The audience therefore asked why such policies were in place, when they’re “completely inconsistent” with the government’s stated intent to put net zero at the heart of its policy decisions.

“Why does the government not insist on carbon neutral new housing?” asked one villager while another queried Mr Griffiths on his party’s perceived lack of enthusiasm for community energy.

One villager claimed investment in renewables would be a win-win, because of the economic and climatic implications, but investment for renewable energy, onshore wind turbines, carbon capture and similar schemes has been cut back.

Lord Nicholas Stern, who attend the meeting, even called the reversal the “greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen”.

The author of the much-feted Stern Review into the Economics of Climate Change concluded that the benefits of strong, early action on addressing the issue far outweigh the costs of not action, not least because of the potential impacts on water resources, food production, health and the environment.

There was a clear sense in the room that hearts and minds on both sides had been challenged, and that the climate crisis should be a top priority when we go to the polls.