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Climate change

Our green revolution could end in tears

Flooding in Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire, after the River Calder burst its banks in February 2020. Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

All our political parties are green nowadays, says the Bagehot column in The Economist. The Tories want to “build back greener”, Labour demands a “green industrial revolution” and the Liberal Democrats are urging everybody to “go further and faster”. That leaves a huge gap in the market for “anti-green politics”. Rising petrol prices inspired France’s gilets jaunes; Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland and Finland’s Finns Party have lambasted “green hysteria”. Anti-greenery is still nascent in Britain, but, like Brexit, it could easily tap in to ordinary peoples’ resentment of distant elites. After all, environmentalism is driven by the populists’ two big bogeymen, “scientific experts and multilateral institutions”.

The green transition will hit the poorest hardest, not just because they are poor, but also because they are more likely to work in the “dirty economy” – unlike the bureaucrats and shiny entrepreneurs who push the eco message most loudly. Nigel Farage, driving force of Brexit, is all for “sensible environmentalism”, but he’s wary of the establishment variety that taxes “poor people to give money to rich people and big corporations while China’s going to ignore it all”. Policymakers should listen. They need to see the world through the eyes of people who accept that climate change is a problem, but must “ceaselessly struggle to get by” in the here and now.

Why it matters In his “bizarre Marie Antoinette impersonation” at the UN, Boris Johnson showed no understanding of the hardship his “unthought-out, uncosted, unaccountable gallop to a green heaven” would impose on swathes of the population, says Janet Daley in The Sunday Telegraph. Environmentalism’s “messianic recipe for saving the world” is overwriting what was once our most sacred social principle: governments should not enact policies that “disproportionately hurt the less well-off”.