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European populists exploit climate view divide between city and countryside – researcher

(Clean Energy Wire, 10 Apr 2024) Right-wing populist parties have seen vast electoral successes in Europe in recent years, and populist parties opposing strong climate action are expected to score well in two-thirds of EU member states at the European Parliament elections in June this year. Does this trend mean that the continent will experience a complete overhaul of its policies?

Europe is set to face a climate backlash caused by the divide between urban and rural views, with populists increasingly capitalising on rural resistance against policies seen as elitist, argues Daphne Halikiopoulou, Chair of Comparative Politics at the University of York. 

Mainstream parties are increasingly prepared to collaborate with populists, giving them the opportunity to implement their legislative agendas, says Halikiopoulou. But this does not necessarily imply a complete overhaul of climate policy, as these parties often must tone down their extremist narratives once in power. A just transition to ensure that people who face disadvantages from climate policies are compensated will become increasingly important, she says.

Daphne Halikiopoulou: First, let me emphasise that the electoral successes of these parties are not new. In France in the early 2000s, the then still-called Front National made it to the second round of presidential elections, in the Netherlands there was Pim Fortuyn, who is in a way the predecessor of far-right politician Geert Wilders, and the FPÖ party in Austria was in government around the same period. However, we have seen a sharp rise in their electoral popularity since 2014.

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Clean Energy Wire, 10 Apr 2024: European populists exploit climate view divide between city and countryside – researcher