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Commentary: How to do climate policy in the age of green backlash

Commentary: How to do climate policy in the age of green backlash
Commentary: How to do climate policy in the age of green backlash


Both the paper and the website are examples of smart ways to get a public message across at a time when far-right leaders are racing to argue climate change is an overblown concern of privileged urban elites.

The far right is not alone. Politicians may champion reliable, well-paid green jobs, but news reports in the US suggest the reality can look more like the long hours and middling pay of an Uber driver.

Those reports feature in a scathing recent book, Where Have All The Democrats Gone? by John Judis and Ruy Teixeira, two left-leaning US political analysts.

They argue Democrats lost vital working-class support as a “shadow party” of cultural radicals pushed for extreme policies on race, immigration, gender – and climate.

Despairing of “climate radicals’ fanatical hostility to fossil fuels”, they argue for more gradual, centrist approaches to a climate problem they claim can “only be solved over decades”.

Alas, the science shows governments have dithered for too long already. That means fair, carefully designed and communicated climate measures are more critical than ever.

Happily, they are emerging. The 2022 US Inflation Reduction Act was designed to offer higher tax benefits to clean energy employers who pay a certain level of wages.

New research shows that after Spain’s government introduced a painstakingly negotiated policy to close coal mines in the country’s north, its vote rose in those areas compared with similar places.

There’s a long way to go. Too many climate activists still fret about a lack of “political will”, as if such a force could be magically bottled and summoned.

The truth is, 21st-century climate politics is hard, bitterly contested and unfamiliar. We’ve never tried to decarbonise the global economy at speed before. Politicians are learning by doing. But bit by bit, it is also becoming clearer that even when climate action looks impossibly fraught, it may not be.

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