As living costs surge, climate change takes a backseat in elections


ECONOMY FIRST

From heat to drought, the impacts of climate change are becoming more frequent and intense – but efforts to cut emissions and adapt to global warming are lagging behind, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned this month.

However, as countries from the Philippines to Lebanon to Brazil prepare for elections, climate change has not been a big issue. Elsewhere, like France, green parties have made no progress in recent votes.

One of several Philippine presidential debates this year focused on climate change for the first time, but otherwise the issue has received little attention in the campaigns.

“For it to be high on politicians’ agendas, it needs to be viewed as a livelihood issue” that focuses on lost income, crops and property, said Jean Encinas Franco, a political scientist at the University of the Philippines.

She said greater effort needed to be made to address the “hidden” link between global warming and voters’ concerns about livelihood or hunger so that climate change could be seen as a more pressing electoral issue.

“In the end, candidates have to relate an issue to its potential to garner votes,” Franco said.

In Lebanon, climate change and renewable energy have not become key issues ahead of the May 15 general election, despite countries suffering from severe power cuts since mid-2021.

In Australia, the two main parties running in national elections on May 21 have said they would continue to support coal exports, despite a growing majority of Australians supporting a ban on new coal mines and calling for exports to be cut.

“LOW ON THE LIST”

Politicians who have shown how they can help people cope with the economic fallout from COVID-19 and rising inflation have proved popular in the recent election, noted climate policy expert Danny Marks.

“While I think many voters around the world care about climate change and the threats it poses, it’s low on their list of priorities right now,” said Marks, assistant professor of environmental policy at Dublin City University.

He cited the example of the French Greens, which fared poorly in this month’s presidential election and whose candidate Yannick Jadot was eliminated on the first ballot.

In contrast, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who turned away from her party’s anti-immigration policies to focus her campaign on the rising cost of living, finished second behind President Emmanuel Macron.

Marks urged politicians who care about climate change to highlight the immediate benefits of a green transition, such as renewable energy jobs and public health improvements.

In the Philippines, many people look more to candidates’ personalities and connections than issues when voting, political analysts say.

Like most people in his province, Daga supports Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. – the late dictator’s son and a frontrunner in the race for the presidency – because his mother Imelda is from Leyte.

“I will vote for Bongbong because he helped us during typhoon (Haiyan),” Daga said, shaking off concerns that Marcos lacks clear plans to combat climate change.

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