The Student
Opinion
Far-right rhetoric on climate action is absolutely meaningless

It’s 2017, Greta Thunberg has yet to begin her climate protest and Marine Le Pen seems to have taken a break from her Trump tribute band in recent weeks. She has forgotten the lines and begun to give weight to the fact that decades of scientific research might potentially have a small amount of partial truth behind it. Possibly, or perhaps not. Well done Marine! You know, I was sceptical about whether or not there was a climate emergency but now that the prodigal daughter has spoken, I can finally put these qualms and concerns to bed.

I wish I could say Le Pen had gone off script in saying that she does believe in climate change. Unfortunately, that would be a blatant fallacy. In her supposedly ground-breaking speech, she said “climate change is not a religion, it is useful for there to be a debate about what is harming the climate.” This is utterly meaningless. So, she thinks we need to discuss what effect humans have on the environment? We know what effect humans have had on the environment. There is decades of research and evidence on the subject. She said the very minimum required to even begin to acknowledge what the rest of us, even then, could see would be the defining issue of the century.

This only seemed like a big deal because she had previously denied climate change, and it reeked of a desperate attempt to make her party and her candidacy more appealing to disgruntled and environmentally conscious voters before of an upcoming election.

There are various claims emerging that far-right parties are now pushing an ecological narrative, which for once is geared towards sustainability and dealing with the climate emergency. Should we be discussing whether this offers a potential avenue for cooperation between organisations and politicians across the left-right political divide?

If there was any truth to this, and if these far-right groups were in power, then yes, absolutely we should cooperate with them to try and reduce and revert climate change. It is not a difficult concept to grasp. Rising sea levels, and increasingly frequent, increasingly extreme weather events do not discriminate by ideology. A hurricane does not care about the difference between a Tory or a Liberal Democrat – or even a UKIP voter. These issues will affect everybody, so cooperation is vital or we are all going to suffer.

This is the kicker though: they are largely not in power and they are not proposing anything concrete. The only EU nation with a prominently right-leaning government is Viktor Orban’s Hungary. Green and green-leaning parties across the world are overwhelmingly positioned centre to left. There is a reason that the right typically does not approve of climate change legislation, let alone believe in the need for it – it puts their lifestyles at risk. The right is renowned for being anti-change and anti-sacrifice, with a desire to maintain the status quo. Much as I would welcome it, they are not going to change now, nor anytime soon.

This was therefore a particularly cunning move on Le Pen’s part. In acknowledging there is a change in climate (albeit ignoring the reason why), but by not taking a pro environmental stance, nor encouraging people to change their lifestyles, she could essentially straddle the demographic and ideological divide of voters by presenting herself as a viable option to a voter base that encompasses both the elderly and wealthy conservatives, and  the young, disgruntled, environmentally conscious centrists.

What remains to be seen is whether this ‘policy’ is adopted by more right-wing parties and whether we can expect a power shift across Europe.

Image via Claude Troung-Ngoc (Ctruongngoc).