ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Back to Paper Details

Is Populism a Challenge to European Climate Policy? Unpacking the Causal Links and Empirical Examples

European Politics
Party Manifestos
Political Parties
Populism
Climate Change
Public Opinion
Energy Policy
European Parliament
Tomas Maltby
Kings College London
Tomas Maltby
Kings College London
Stefan Ćetković
Bavarian School of Public Policy
Kacper Szulecki
Universitetet i Oslo
Robert A. Huber
Universität Salzburg

Abstract

Understanding responses to, and scepticism about, the anthropogenic nature of climate change is essential for a far-reaching energy transition within the European Union. While a growing body of literature has explored the impact of the rise of populist parties on government policies and party systems, relatively little is known about the consequences of populism on the efforts to mitigate climate change both at the national and EU level. What limited literature there is assumes that populist political forces, especially those on the right of the ideological spectrum, constitute a challenge to Europe’s climate policy ambition. Recent populism scholarship has shed more light on the core elements of populism and has emphasized ideological, regional and party system variations of populist parties‘ strategies. Understanding which dimensions of political explanation drive climate scepticism and policy support is important for theoretical and practical reasons. Conflating several dimensions, such as populism, anti-elitism, political ideology, conspiracy theories, and authoritarianism is not only limiting our ability to understand causal explanations of climate-related political phenomena but also limits policymakers’ responses to this scepticism. This paper considers the link between populist parties and climate ambition and whether such attitudes have their origins in populism or can be more attributed to parties´ host ideology, national socio-economic context or position in the party system? We use illustrative case studies of both right- and left-wing populist parties, in government and opposition, from across Europe, in Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy, Greece, Poland and Spain. In doing so, we seek to advance the debate on the varieties of populist political forces and their policy consequences by looking at climate policy narratives, preferences and decisions taken at the national and EU level.