Europe’s politics lacking energy urgency as election season begins
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The elevation of Liz Truss to UK Prime Minister this week comes against a background of dual energy and fiscal crises that are certain to raise the profile of the climate v. cost debate in the post-Boris Johnson era. Elsewhere in Europe, as it enters election season and a gas crunch this winter, the climate issue is largely a distant second or third to concerns about crime, foreign policy, and even fascism.
Sweden, home to Greta Thunberg, kicks off the season on Sept. 11 with elections to the 349-member parliament, or Riksdag, which will then elect the prime minister. The poll-leading Social Democrats have included a pledge to increase renewable energy in their plans while the Moderates want to push more nuclear power. To the extent climate has played a role it is to inflame tensions ahead of time, partly to do with a scandal involving a broadcaster accused by the right of altering weather map designs to exaggerate the impact of global warming.
In Switzerland, a host of referendums come to ballot on Sept. 25, with the only one tied to climate being on in Lucerne asking residents to vote on a plan to halve energy consumption by 2025 or accept a watered-down version. Slovenia has a presidential vote in October in which the rising Freedom Movement (formerly Greens), which did well in parliamentary elections last spring, just lost its candidate last week. And in Italy, which has elections on Sept. 25, the talk, as usual, is about fascism.
The lack of discussion of energy policy is surprising given the shortage of gas and oil expected as Russia withholds exports. It also undercuts Europe’s claim to be leaders in the fight against climate change, at least at the EU level. Perhaps because there is broader agreement on the need to transition to clean energy than in the U.S., it is less of a hot potato political topic.
In any case, this election season proves once again that even in a world collectively suffering from extreme heat, flooding and wildfires, all politics remain local.
— With additional research over the past few weeks by Madeleine Callaway, my niece and a Georgetown student.
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“The benefits of such actions will not be there to enjoy for all of us here today: We, none of us, will live forever. But we are doing this not for ourselves but for our children and our children’s children.” — Queen Elizabeth II, speaking to world leaders at COP26 last year on the urgency of action to fight global climate catastrophe.