The rise of the ultra-right Europa bothers defenders of refugeesfrom cause feministfrom the community LGBTQIA+ and of democracy. But, as far as experts assess, governments of this nature on the continent do not threaten, at least for now, environmentalists.
The reason is the consolidation of the pro-environmental discourse in European political culture. At Hungaryfor example, where the Prime Minister Viktor Orbán often criticizes the green plans of the European Union80% of the population believe that the climate change and its consequences are the greatest challenges for humanity, according to the European Investment Bank (EIB).
Me on Italygoverned by ultradireitist Giorgia Melons88% of the population face climate change and its consequences as the greatest challenge of the 21st century. Swedencountry where the ultra-right supports the governmentthe number is 75%.
Among the European Union nations governed by this group, only Poland has rates lower than the block average. According to the EIB, only 40% of Poles believe that climate change is already threatening the planet.
The Poles’ conception, by the way, influences the government’s position on the subject. PiS, the far-right party that runs the country, is against the European bloc’s deadlines for the energy transition🇧🇷 Last year, coal burning accounted for 70% of the country’s electricity generation – the highest rate in all of Europe.
Despite negative rhetoric like that of the Poles, the European Union has managed to create mechanisms that inhibit resistance to its green policies. This was the case, for example, when the bloc’s Court of Justice imposed fines on Poland after the country refused to close a coal-fired thermoelectric plant on the border with Czech republic –the structure, according to the EU, negatively impacts the environment and public health.
The fine reached €70 million (R$386 million) and only stopped growing when Warsaw closed an agreement with Prague, in February, to compensate for damage previously caused. The process was withdrawn from the court, but until today, Brussels deducts the fines stipulated by Justice from the monthly submissions.
Such punishments would cause even more damage to the Hungarian economy, much more fragile than the Polish one. And Orbán knows this: despite criticizing the deadlines of the EU’s green policies, his government has followed the pro-climate positions established by the bloc and even made partnerships on renewable energy with countries outside the group.
The fact is that Brussels has already suspended €13 billion (R$71.7 billion) from Budapest for actions against the rule of law, and more punishments would contribute once and for all to the weakening of the Hungarian economy. “They were never willing to put their foot down for very long because they realized they would lose a lot of money from the European Union if they did,” says Balsa Lubarda, a visiting fellow at the University of California at Berkeley.
According to analysts, the weak influence of the ultra-right in the bloc’s environmental discussions is rooted precisely in the group’s range of political flags. “They can make a lot of noise, but when they get into government they only focus on immigration and national security issues,” says Matthew Lockwood, professor of energy policy at the University of Sussex, in United Kingdomand author of a survey that measures the influence of the ultra-right in countries of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).
This is what happened in Italy. In October, negotiations between far-right leaders to install Meloni as prime minister focused on internal security, the economy and refugees. The environment area was taken over by Forza Italia, the coalition’s centre-right party. The insignificance of the issue, by the way, was wide open even in Meloni’s first week in power: on the occasion, she misspelled the name of the Minister of the Environment when announcing the composition of her government.
Even so, the Italian went to COP27, the climate conference organized by the UN in November, and assured that his government “remains strongly convinced of the commitment to decarbonization”. Undoubtedly, a nod to the European Union.
“Italy is a very important economy for the bloc, but the Italian history is not one of climate skepticism. When the League allied itself with 5 Stars, for example, it did not fail to comply with EU climate policies because the rest of the government did not let me,” recalls Eduardo Viola, a researcher at USP’s Institute for Advanced Studies.
Analysts point out, however, that the ultra-right’s restraint on the subject is limited only to those parties that manage to come to power, regardless of whether in a majority or minority. One adelphi researcha Berlin-based think tank focused on the environment, showed that 7 out of 21 European far-right parties deny climate change.
In addition, according to the study, two out of three ultra-right MEPs in the European Parliament regularly vote against green policies. The survey was released in 2019.
Sweden is perhaps the prime example of this political inconsistency today: in October, the far-right Swedish Democrats reached an agreement with the Moderates and confirmed its participation in the then new centre-right government from the country. The legend was the only one to oppose the ratification of the Paris Agreement in 2016, but its support for the current government must not interfere with the Nordic country’s historic climate policies –Stockholmfor example, has one of the most expensive carbon markets on the planet.
A few days after the Swedish government became official, the global press reverberated the end of the Ministry of the Environment in the countrypointing out that such a decision would be the influence of the ultra-right in the government.
For Lubarda, however, the extinction of the portfolio has more practical than ideological reasons. “The decision to dissolve the ministry is emblematic because it shows that energy is more important than protecting the environment at this time. On the other hand, it is a way for the government to show that it is cutting administration costs; something that has also been done by Fidesz (Party of Viktor Orbán, in Hungary).
Anyway, the current energy crisis triggered by ukraine war can serve as an engine for the political rhetoric of these groups. “The most important thing is to know how Europe will react to this in the next three or four years because the ultra-right parties say that the continent needs more coal and gas, while the green parties say that it is necessary to accelerate renewable energies”, says Lockwood.
The United Kingdom –which, despite Brexit, follows the EU’s environmentalist line– has already given its signals. In early December, the country approved its first new coal mine in decades.