Wednesday, 20 January 2021

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Climate an increasingly important part of the political agenda, UNEP Europe director states ahead of elections

Bruno Pozzi, Director UN Environment Brussels, © EP/UNRIC Photo

Climate change is dominating the political agenda ahead of the European Parliament elections next week. As climate issues both bring together and divide European citizens, UN Environment's Bruno Pozzi believes in a global embedding of the green agenda.

— I’ve been in diplomacy for about 25 years. When I started, climate change and the environment were very marginal topics in the political debate. I’ve seen them grow and become more and more central. Climate change is now a political pillar, it is at the centre of political decision making, said Bruno Pozzi, director of UN Environment Europe, in an interview with UNRIC.

Climate change was a central topic during a debate among candidates running for spitzenkandidat - or “lead candidate” - for the European Commission's top post, broadcast across the EU on 15 May, a week before a potential 427 million voters head to the polling stations. Socialist candidate Frans Timmermanns went as far as to call for a progressive coalition “from Tsirpas, all the way to Macron,” to make sure climate change becomes a top priority for the European Commission.

— We see that there has been a lot of actions undertaken by youth in Europe to put climate change at the centre of the political debate, Pozzi said and added that the EU elections are a “really important moment” in terms of democracy.

After months of street protests organised by citizens all over the world, climate change for the first time tops the agenda of the European election campaign. The question is no longer whether to tackle climate change, but how. An increasing number of parties have environmental agendas in their political programmes, with 468 candidates from across Europe publicly committing to taking urgent action on climate if elected.

— The centrality of the environmental pillar is a new thing and is really pushed by society in general. Society is asking us to address issues from a political and global perspective, Pozzi said.

77 per cent of potential voters at the EU elections identified global warming as an important criterion when deciding who to vote for, according to a survey by IPSOS Mori released last month.

Climate change critics

Europe has experienced an upswing of climate change critics. A new report published by German think tank Adelphi suggested that European right-wing populists that used to mainly talk about migration are gathering forces to collect voters resistant to climate change policies. Only three of Europe’s right-wing populist parties accept the scientific consensus that humans are creating significant climate change, according to the report. Nationalist and populist parties are currently on course to win up to 250 out of the 705 EU Parliament seats - something that could potentially shift the direction of climate policies in Europe. “We have already observed this in the migration debate,” CEO of Adelphi, Alexander Carius, told Politico.

But migration has an “environmental dimension to it” Bruno Pozzi pointed out. There is a growing consensus to further include climate change in both European and global debates on security. The European Commission Conflict, Crisis and Security-Development nexus states in their approach to external conflicts that “energy security, environmental protection and climate change” needs to be linked to policies.

— Whatever the political thinking is, the environmental dimension is now embedded in political programmes, and that is something that is really new, Pozzi said.


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