Donald Trump might make the rise of populism impossible to ignore, but as Europeans we must not pretend that this is a problem “over there” as far-right sentiment continues to creep across our continent.
From Germany’s AfD, Hungary’s Fidesz, Italy’s Lega Nord and France’s National Rally (the rebranded Front National) to Ukip and the Brexit Party, ultra-nationalists are determined to wind back the clock on social progress, international cooperation, cultural tolerance, migrant rights and women’s rights.
In fact, this tide of far-right populism threatens the very foundations of life on Earth. At a critical time for taking action to combat climate change, Nigel Farage and his climate-change-denying cronies across Europe are poised to gain influence in Brussels. According to a study by the think tank Adelphi, the far right could make up a quarter of MEPs after elections this month. They are already in government in seven EU member states.
Nigel Farage, whose Brexit Party is currently leading the polls for the European elections, is not a friend of the environment. As well as opposing the Climate Change Act during the 2015 general election, Farage has consistently cast doubt on the link between climate change and carbon dioxide emissions. In 2013 he told the European parliament: “We may have made one of the biggest and most stupid collective mistakes in history by getting so worried about global warming” – a statement he was keen to downplay on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show at the weekend.
In the UK, a victory for the Brexit Party would also be a victory for environmental vandals in the fossil-fuel industry and those trying to frustrate international efforts to reduce carbon emissions through the Paris climate agreement.
Climate change is a global issue: it does not respect borders and therefore it needs an international response. European nations have a moral obligation as well as a very real self-preservation imperative to act. We have both worked on European environment policy, including on trade and sustainable development in the European Commission and in the European parliament. We know the EU is far from perfect – but it has shown leadership on tackling climate change.
The amount of renewable energy produced in the EU grew by two-thirds between 2007 and 2017 as a result of EU legislation agreed by all member states (including the UK) as part of its obligations to the Kyoto protocols. The Paris accords have led to the European Commission prioritising climate change with the development of policies, frameworks and strategies for 2020, 2030 and 2050.
The Party of European Socialists – for which we are both standing as Labour candidates in the forthcoming European elections – is one of only two parties that can realistically win the commission presidency which sets the EU’s agenda. Our manifesto sets out a comprehensive approach to tackling climate change, including European-wide taxes on carbon emissions, a 2050 target for a carbon neutral Europe, a plan for affordable housing and clean public transport, and a transition fund to make sure we meet our UN commitments.
Labour MEPs will get behind this agenda. We know we must combine action on climate change with an agenda of social justice to offer a European-wide Green New Deal which will have a ripple effect across the world. It is the world’s poorest people whose lives are most affected by the depletion of natural resources while sea levels and temperatures rise. We must not just build prosperity through green growth in Europe, but shift the narrative on migration to welcome those made refugees as a result of climate change.
Creating an international movement of hope and renewal is the antithesis of the project of fearmongering and border-building of Farage and the climate-change fantasists. Labour is the first party in the world to call a national climate emergency through parliament.
At a time when school strikers, Greta Thunberg, the Sunrise Movement and Extinction Rebellion are bringing new life and energy back into the climate justice movement across the world, we cannot allow this to be diluted by he likes of Marine Le Pen, Victor Orban and Nigel Farage.
When you vote on 23 May, there is only one group in the European parliament with the political vision and strength of numbers to defeat the Brexit Party and their allies. Those who want to stop the far right and ensure Europe steps up on climate change must vote for the Labour Party and the Party of European Socialists.
Eloise Todd is a Labour MEP candidate for Yorkshire and the Humber. She formerly worked for the Socialist and Democrats Group in the European parliament. Laura Parker is a Labour MEP candidate for London. She previously worked on EU environment policy for the European Commission and the UK government
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