PHILIP STEPHENS: Populism stands in way of climate fight
Many voters look at green policies through the same prism as President Donald Trump
“We all know what to do, but we don’t know how to get re-elected once we have done it.” Jean-Claude Juncker, then Luxembourg’s prime minister, issued his painfully prescient warning in 2013. Sure enough, the austerity programmes that followed the global crash whipped up a populist storm from which the old politics has still to recover. History is in danger of repeating itself. As Juncker might say, the politicians know what they have to do about climate change, but beware the gilets jaunes.
The success of the populist movements that have destabilised Europe’s ancien regimes is rooted in a perception, more than half-true, that those near the bottom of the pile were burdened with bailing out the elites responsible for the financial crisis. The left-behinds rather than the bankers bore the brunt of austerity. Now think about cutting carbon emissions. The same group — low earners living in provincial towns and villages — are first in the line of fire.