By Jessica Shankleman
21 November 2016
(Bloomberg) – Populism is drawing momentum from environmentalism in the U.S. and Europe, threatening the world's effort to rein in climate change.
Donald Trump's election in the U.S., the U.K. Independence Party and Marine Le Pen's ascent in France all represent a break with political leaders who made the environment a priority. All three are skeptical of climate change and resistant to international projects like the United Nations global warming talks.
Envoys from more than 190 countries gathered by the UN made progress this weekend in their work to contain fossil-fuel emissions and keep a lid on temperature increases. Two weeks of discussions in Marrakech, Morocco, were overshadowed by the election of Trump, who has called climate change a hoax. Many delegates left the city concerned about the forces working against them.
"If climate change is labeled as an elitist, global project, which is what UKIP and Le Pen want to do, then it's dead," said Nick Mabey, a former climate adviser to the U.K. government now leading the environmental consultant E3G.
Trump takes office in January and has said he'll pull out of the Paris agreement negotiated through the UN. That's a sharp contrast to outgoing President Barack Obama, who spent six years concentrating on the issue, resulting in a historic agreement with China in 2015 to work together on lowering emissions, prompting dozens of developing economies to follow suit. Trump's stance is echoed by right-wing movements in Europe:
- Le Pen's National Front doubts global warming is linked to human activity and has promoted a "New Ecology movement" emphasizing national programs on the environment over global rules like the ones coming from the UN talks.
- UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage called the fight against climate change "one of the biggest and stupidest collective misunderstandings in history," saying the science isn't settled and technologies to defeat the problem like renewable energy are damaging to the economy. UKIP's push to leave the European Union was endorsed by British voters on June 23, leaving Farage more influential in shaping government policy. [more]