Climate vs. environmental protection: On the green roots of the right

Climate vs. environmental protection: On the green roots of the right
Climate vs. environmental protection: On the green roots of the right

Right-wingers and conservatives want to preserve our native nature, but they don’t want to know anything about climate protection. How does that fit together?

“Every patriot must think ecologically,” Marine le Pen once said in a . Yes, you read that correctly: The leader of the right-wing populist party Rassemblement National believes that right-wingers should also be eco-friendly. And she is not the only one from that camp: NPD politicians rail against genetic engineering, and in its first policy program the party campaigned for the protection of forests and waterways. And a .

Only those who protect the environment usually also protect the climate and vice versa. How does this fit with a political camp that defames sustainability as an elitist eco-project, questions man-made climate change and boycotts the energy transition?

Rights also have green roots

Environmental protection grew primarily through the anti-nuclear power movement and the 1968 movement. However, it is not an original left-wing, green issue. In fact, nature conservation has its roots in the conservatives of the late 19th century. Industrialization fueled fears of loss because landscapes and traditional ways of life were massively changed. The German Association for Homeland Protection, founded in 1904 – the mother of all other nature conservation associations in Germany – was intended to preserve the German cultural landscape, romanticized as rural, in times of modernization and urbanization.

In the Third Reich, environmental protection became an ideology: a healthy people can only thrive in a healthy habitat, the National Socialists believed, and made environmental protection into “homeland and racial protection”. However, the Reich Nature and Animal Protection Acts passed in the 1930s did not make politics any greener. Protected areas were designated, but at the same time rivers were straightened, moors and swamps drained, unused areas opened up for agriculture, and the Second World War probably put even more strain on the environment and climate. The Animal Protection Act was not aimed at the welfare of animals, but against Jewish slaughter rituals, entirely in line with nationalist anti-Semitism.

AfD deviates from radical climate denial

Today, all parties agree that the environment must be protected. However, the motives could not be more different. And opinions also differ widely when it comes to implementation.

“Unlike nature conservation, climate policy requires much greater economic and social change,” says Dennis Tänzler, who heads the climate policy program at the Adelphi think tank. Nature conservation can be limited nationally. The climate crisis must be fought internationally – isolation is more of a hindrance because CO2 emissions and tipping points know no national borders.

However, not everyone in the conservative and right-wing camps has the same attitude towards climate change, according to a study on the voting behaviour of right-wing populist parties in the EU Parliament. The researchers identified three groups:

  • skeptical deniers
  • Reticent or uninvolved
  • Consenting

The AfD is therefore one of the most critical groups, which initially dismissed climate change as a hoax. In its program for the 2021 federal election, however, it deviated from the radical position and has since questioned human influence on the climate. “This is due to the fact that climate change is being discussed more widely and research is accumulating more and more knowledge on the subject, so that it can no longer be fundamentally denied,” explains Albert Denk of the Free University of Berlin. In return, it now criticizes scientific findings on climate change as implausible and protective or adaptation measures as pointless.

However, climate skepticism is not limited to right-wing populists, but extends to the middle of the party landscape, as shown by the FDP and Union’s criticism of the planned phase-out of combustion engines. “Conservative parties as a whole are trying to maintain classic values ​​and behavior and are accordingly resistant to change,” says Denk.

Right-wing climate story: sacrifice rather than solve

In a study commissioned by the Federal Environment Agency, he researched the narratives of populist parties and found that “it is no longer the basic phenomenon that is being criticized, but rather the way it is being dealt with.”

For the Greens, technological progress could at least partially solve the climate problem. Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck therefore repeatedly calls for underground CO2 storage in the North Sea.

Conservatives and right-wing populists counter with the social question. From their perspective, climate protection is an undemocratic elite project that restricts the personal freedoms of citizens. “Climate protection is much more far-reaching than intervention. People are more affected in their everyday lives, which polarizes,” explains political scientist Tänzler. Conservative and right-wing populist parties know how to use the sometimes justified discontent of citizens to their advantage by reducing the green transition to its disadvantages.

The story then goes like this: the energy transition is endangering jobs and prosperity, free markets are under threat, and climate protection measures are being implemented at the expense of the poorer population in rural areas. Even with subsidies, only the rich can afford electric cars, while fuel for petrol cars is becoming more expensive and the government is also cutting agricultural subsidies for farmers who, due to a lack of alternatives, are dependent on their combustion engines.

Studies show that this can happen. However, right-wing populists are trying to play the victim role without offering sustainable solutions to the crisis, thus fueling rejection among the population.

Curious side note: Parties like the AfD use environmental protection as an argument against climate protection. One argues for the end of wind and solar energy and the destruction of the German cultural landscape. In doing so, they not only exacerbate the resentment of the population, who find wind turbines on their own doorsteps a thorn in their side, but also play environmental and climate protection off against each other, even though the two are mutually dependent.

How shaky is the Green Deal?

The Green Deal also shows this. The EU members recently passed the Renaturation Act. It stipulates that member states must restore at least 20 percent of their natural areas by 2030. In this way, countries not only protect their biodiversity, but also the climate. Peatlands, for example, function as carbon sinks and can thus mitigate man-made climate change through CO2 emissions.

“If the Green Deal were embedded more nationally and socially, for example through climate money for people with low incomes, the potential for protest could be curbed,” speculates Tänzler. However, it is unlikely that conservatives and right-wingers will suddenly become climate protectors. The Renaturation Act was criticized by conservative Christian Democrats as a threat to agriculture. And because the conservatives are in the opposition benches in Germany, they will probably continue to reject green politics in the future.

After the disastrous EU election results, many believed the Green Deal was on the brink. However, scientists believe it is unlikely that the project will fail or be withdrawn in the future because too many points have already been approved by the EU Parliament, Council and member states. Even if they wanted to, the right could no longer reverse the green turnaround: wind and solar energy are booming in several countries, and China is flooding the market with cheap electric cars and solar cells.

The conservative-right criticism of the green turnaround is therefore likely to remain one thing above all: empty rumblings to justify the place on the opposition bench.

Sources: , , , Springer Link, “Ecological Economy”, Federal Environment Agency, .

Source: Stern

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Posts