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Far right is biggest threat to global climate financing deal for world’s poorest

8 months ago 45

The rise of far-right parties in Western democracies represents a serious threat to the fight against climate change and that’s why voters must understand that green investment is a path to sustainable economic prosperity, writes Momodou Malcolm Jallow.

Momodou Malcolm Jallow has served as a member of the Swedish parliament since 2017 and, since 2022, has chaired the Civil Committee. Jallow has been actively involved with the Afro-Swedish Association and leads the Afro-Swedish Forum for Justice, focusing on anti-racism efforts and Afro-Swedes’ welfare.

This month’s COP28 summit could be the world’s last chance to avoid the dreaded 1.5 degrees Celsius safe limit. Commentators are fixated on what appears to be the biggest challenge – securing a global climate deal. But they’ve missed an even bigger challenge: the far-right.

We all remember how Trump’s 2016 election heralded the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. Sweden – my country – is now having its Trumpian moment, with a far-right Coalition Government undoing years of tireless climate action in just one administration.

Sweden’s right-wing government has cut climate funding by 259 million krona, lowered fuel taxes leading to an emissions increase for the first time in 20 years, stopped a planned carbon tax rise and reversed a ban on new fossil fuel extraction.

As the world stands on the precipice of irreversible climate change, our government is justifying an unprecedented rollback of vital climate policies by exploiting and exaggerating fears that they harm economic prosperity.

The carbon tax, for instance, was denounced for hurting the competitiveness of Swedish industries and households. It’s not an isolated case. From US states enacting anti-ESG laws to Dutch farmers protesting against nitrogen emission limits – the threat of the far-right exploiting rising fears of ‘green’ economic disaster is sparking a very real ‘Greenlash’.

Which is why a COP climate agreement, as historic as it would be, could swiftly collapse if far-right parties win the information battle. Their continued traction will allow them to muddy political debate and quickly undo vital progress at this month’s COP Summit.

Marine Le Pen, polling at 21% in the first round and a close 45% in the second round could pivot France towards an anti-climate nationalist agenda. In Germany, the climate-denying AfD is polling at 21%. And in the US, a New York Times poll shows Trump leading Biden in five of the six most important battleground states.

These gains are enough for Far-Right parties to shift the centre ground of climate efforts even without outright political victory. The Republican party, for instance, scuppered the Biden administration’s climate finance pledge into the UN Green Climate Fund during negotiations last month, derailing wider global talks on climate financing.

The general reluctance of Western governments to deliver on their own insufficient climate finance pledges, let alone enabling the trillions needed annually, nearly led to the total breakdown of the talks to operationalise the ‘loss and damage’ fund agreed upon at COP27, explicitly designed to support countries most impacted by climate change.

Against all odds, the ‘loss and damage’ deal just struck in Abu Dhabi managed to smash through the impasse.

Though it was agreed the fund would be managed by the World Bank – widely opposed by developing countries due to the institution’s potted history of increasing debt and poverty – the deal also requires developing nations to have oversight via the fund’s board and makes room for richer developing nations like China to pay into the fund.

The COP28 presidency’s focus on bridging the divide between developed and developing nations has clearly been crucial in enabling this compromise agreement.

Yet what is undoubtedly a massive breakthrough in the history of global climate negotiations could easily be derailed. The task ahead is to build on this tentative deal to get final sign-off from some 200 countries at the COP28 climate summit.

Between then and now, the giant elephant in the room is the anti-regulatory narrative promoted by Far-Right political parties, which could encourage Western governments to water down their climate commitments. But even if a deal is reached at COP, how can we ensure it withstands the whims of political change?

The only guarantee is to push back against the ‘Greenlash’, which frames climate action as a little more than a painful sacrifice that will make us poorer. That’s why I urge my fellow political leaders to tackle this narrative head-on.

Climate change may be the biggest threat – but as COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber has stated, it also represents the biggest opportunity for “transformational progress”.

Tackling climate change through clean energy is not only a massive job creator, it will save money for vehicle owners, crush energy prices, and enhance food and energy security at a precarious geopolitical time.

At COP28, we must follow Al Jaber’s call to transform the entire international financial architecture which means rethinking climate finance entirely.

Rather than being about government hand-outs, climate finance is a strategic partnership between developed and developing countries to ensure a two-way flow of investments and raw materials to create a global circular economy that can supercharge a new era of clean prosperity.

When voters realise green investments are a path to lasting economic prosperity, a global consensus on climate action will become impossible to dislodge.

By demonstrating the alignment of our climate goals with economic incentives, we can show that green investments are not merely an environmental imperative but a pathway to enduring financial security.

This realisation can foster a robust and lasting public consensus on climate action – something that is as crucial to successful climate efforts as a historic COP28 climate deal.

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