The task of addressing climate change and limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is already packed with various challenges. These hurdles may be further compounded by the recent rise of populist right-wing parties.
Right-wing parties have been gaining traction across various regions, particularly in Europe, where they have secured electoral victories and gained representation in parliaments.
This surge in popularity can be attributed to a combination of factors, including, for instance, the fallout from the global financial crisis, migration concerns, and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
"The Rise of Right-Wing Parties in #Europe," please see our new @TheSoufanCenter #Infographic breaking down the platform & popularity of some of 🇪🇺 most prominent far-right political parties. pic.twitter.com/DH8dQj5mW4
— Colin P. Clarke (@ColinPClarke) April 19, 2022
Appealing to their constituents, these parties often offer nationalist, populist, and anti-immigration solutions while challenging liberal values and norms.
On July 31, UK’s conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak revealed plans for two new carbon capture and storage facilities and gave the green light to over 100 new licenses for oil and gas drilling in the North Sea, a move that has drawn criticism from environmentalists and opposition parties.
Undeniably, within the realm of right-wing populism, attitudes towards climate change vary widely.
While some reject man-made global warming, others endorse a form of “nationalist environmentalism,” supporting local conservation efforts while opposing international agreements like the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The presence of right-wing populist parties in governments has been shown to reduce the climate policy index by 24%, as indicated by a 2022 study conducted by economists and researchers at the University of Sussex and the University of Warwick.
Given the increasing environmental threats we face and the rise of right-wing parties, it is crucial to evaluate how right-wing politics affect climate policies and what the motivations of right-wing climate promises are.
When Right-Wing Parties Denies Man-Made Climate Change
A study by Adelphi, an environmental policy think tank in Berlin, found that out of Europe’s 21 official right-wing populist parties, only three — Hungary’s right-wing populist Fidesz, Finland’s Finns Party and Latvia’s National Alliance — openly endorse the scientific consensus on the climate crisis.
Moreover, there are various political figures in different parts of the world who deny the existence of climate change triggered by human actions.
Among the most well-known of these individuals are former US President Donald Trump, who withdrew the US from the Paris Agreement in 2020 and the former President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, under whom the average annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rose by 75.5% compared to the previous decade.
Ultimately, many right-leaning parties are said to see climate action as a threat to their national borders, individual freedoms, and the working people’s prosperity.
As Javier Cortés, president of the Seville chapter of Spain’s far-right Vox party, stated in an interview with Politico: “We consider it to be a globalist movement that intends to end all borders, intends to end our freedom, intends to end our freedom for our identities.”
Ron DeSantis on Climate Change: "I have always rejected the politicized nation of the weather." pic.twitter.com/mvk3Vu974E
— Kelsie Taggart (@kelsientaggart) May 25, 2023
In addition, Florida Governor and Republican party presidential candidate, Ron DeSantis, known for his far-right political views and denial of man-made climate change, openly dismissed climate science as mere “politicization of the weather.”
Let's make #COP28 about real #climateaction and phasing out #fossilfuels. That's why we need Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber to step down as CEO of @ADNOCGroup. There’s no plausible way someone can lead both an oil company and global climate talks! #ClimateAction #DivestFromOil
— Climate Reality (@ClimateReality) July 28, 2023
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Kelcy Warren, co-founder and board chair of Energy Transfer, the company behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, is reported to have been one of the top donors to Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign.
Green Nationalism: When the Climate Crisis Is Used to Support the Right-Wing Agenda
It is important to note that not all right-wing parties deny man-made climate change, and some even have policies that address the risks associated with it. Nonetheless, many often dismiss international climate action as “elitism.”
Further, it is said that the majority of right-wing populist parties do not support “mainstream” approaches, such as international agreements or carbon pricing, to address climate change.
Instead, many appear to promote “nationalist environmentalism,” which prioritises local policies when fighting environmental problems.
In fact, certain populist parties in Europe have reportedly transitioned from denying climate change to perceiving current international climate policy as yet another elite-driven initiative that adversely affects ordinary people, particularly those in the working class.
Furthermore, some argue that populists are using the topic of climate change to gain votes or support from those adversely affected by the economic changes required to combat climate change.
“There is no more convinced ecologist than a conservative, but what distinguishes us from a certain ideological environmentalism is that we want to defend nature with man inside,” the Italian far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said in her parliamentary inaugural speech on 26 October 2022.
The danger with a nationalist approach to climate change is that it not only fails to see climate change as a global issue that needs global action but also that nationalist ideologies can be disguised as climate policies.
For instance, in 2021, the Republican attorney general of Arizona, Mark Brnovich, filed a lawsuit demanding the reinstatement of Donald Trump’s immigration policies, claiming that these individuals “directly result in the release of pollutants, carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”
The Vox party in Spain has voiced support for local environmental initiatives but has also denounced global environmental agreements, while calling for a “green Spain, clean and prosperous, industrialized and in harmony with the environment.”
Le Pen says French people should eat French food, and this will combat climate change.
"The products that we import do not meet the standards we have set as a society," she adds. pic.twitter.com/2UieVQH7ZL
— Dave Keating (@DaveKeating) April 20, 2022
Similarly, the National Rally in France is said to have embraced environmentalism to appeal to voters who care about climate change, yet simultaneously opposed immigration and the European Union and advocates for nuclear power and protectionism.
As extreme weather events become more frequent, the need to address global warming becomes more urgent. At the same time, the rise of right-wing parties is seen as worrying by many.
As the author, activist and Guardian columnist George Monbiot wrote on June 15 2023: “The two tasks – preventing Earth systems collapse and preventing the rise of the far right – are not divisible. We have no choice but to fight both forces at once.”
While some may dismiss concerns about climate change as a “politicization of the weather,” or a “hoax,” this offers only temporary comfort and ignores scientific facts and the need for concrete policy solutions.
🚨 Without immediate, deep and sustained greenhouse gas emission reduction, global warming will exceed 1.5°C by 2035.
Key message from the 2023 UN
sustainable development goals report.
The report is yet another loud call for action. No one can do it alone, but together we can!
— UN Climate Change (@UNFCCC) July 11, 2023
Importantly, as the United Nations has highlighted, a united global effort is needed to address the impacts of climate change.
After all, climate change affects everyone, regardless of national boundaries, political views or background.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: London Graffiti partially submerged in water reading: “I don’t belive in climate change.” Featured Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.