schaller1_ Alain PittonNurPhoto via Getty Images_protest Alain Pitton/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Climate Justice Versus Populism

Populists' demonization of all progressive policies, including those meant to advance sustainability, will cause more harm to those for whom they claim to speak. But so will disregarding all of their criticisms of climate policy, which often reflect real concerns.

BERLIN – The first polls are in. The upcoming European Parliament elections could deliver up to 25% of seats to Euroskeptic right-wing populist forces like Italy’s League party, France’s National Rally (formerly the National Front), and Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland. With such parties already members of governing coalitions in seven European Union member states, influencing national and European policy agendas, the risk to climate-change policy is evident.

According to a new report, seven of 21 right-wing populist parties in Europe explicitly question climate science, while 11 take either no stand or an inconsistent approach. During the last two legislative terms, the majority of right-wing populist parties voted against every EU climate and sustainable-energy policy proposal.

Meanwhile, the consequences of inaction – already growing in severity in many parts of the world – are beginning to bite in Europe. Last summer’s extreme droughts contributed to forest fires in Greece, Portugal, and Sweden, and crop failures in the Baltics, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and Scotland. Fish suffocated in the Rhine river. The economic losses, particularly in agricultural production and domestic maritime transportation, amounted to billions of euros.

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