The challenge of putting climate action and sustainability at the centre of politics is huge. Even though the need for a comprehensive transformation is unquestionable and public support enormous, there is no consensus on how to get there. Crucial for progressive climate politics is the reform of economic and social institutions as well as the collaboration of social movements with different backgrounds and objectives.
The European elections of 2019 produced a surge of support for Green parties across the European Union (EU). Germany’s Alliance 90/The Greens seemingly captured the zeitgeist doubling their vote share. Commentators and activists heralded a “green wave” of citizen support for progressive climate politics (GER) and an EU that closes the ranks against ideological blurring and populists. But what role can green politics play in facilitating a just transition to a carbon-free and sustainable economy and society? What can progressive politicians learn from each other? And how can democratic forces stay united against those rejecting progressive climate politics?
The lunchtime talk “A New Roadmap for Eco Politics” featuring Franziska Brantner (MP of the German Bundestag, Alliance 90/The Greens), Jonathan Bartley (Co-Leader of the Green Party in England and Wales) and Matthew Taylor (Chief Executive, RSA) explored the causes of the green wave in Europe, what impact it would have on policymaking and the lessons learnt from the success of the Greens in Germany.
Watch the full debate here:
Lessons learnt from the success of the Greens in Germany
According to Franziska Brantner, one of the reasons for the success of the German Green’s over the last 40 years was their ability to unite social and civil-society movements with different backgrounds and objectives. Another one was the party’s strength at the state level: Germany’s Alliance 90/The Greens is part of a coalition government in as many states as the Christian Democratic Union of Germany, the conservative party.
Whether the British Green Party can learn from the Germans in this respect is questionable. In contrast to Germany, the situation for the Green Party in the UK is much more difficult because of the British electoral system. The first-past-the-post electoral system tends to favour two large parties. Parties without a geographical base find it much harder to win seats.
In one respect both the British and the German Greens have to improve: their lack of societal representation – which persists despite their political demands for more diversity and inclusivity. The party member structure in both countries is dominated by white and middle-class citizens. If the Greens want to become a catch-all party, a new “Volkspartei”, they will have to expand their member base reaching out to young and less affluent people and minorities.
Different ways of transformation
In light of the climate catastrophe, Jonathan Bartley argues, what people need more than anything right now is hope and a vision of the future. But he also reminds us that the scale of transformation needed in order to stop cataclysmic climate events is huge.
He, therefore, advocates the transformation of the welfare state, the redistribution of existing wealth and a revised approach to economic growth.
We can have all the electoral success we like, but if we don’t avoid the climate catastrophe, then what’s the bloody point in getting elected to a government, if you aren’t actually making a difference?! – J. Bartley
Brantner on the other hand promotes transforming the economy by adopting a progressive environmental agenda and by reaching out more to industries – investing in carbon-neutral mobility for example.
If you want to have that positive change, you have to go by ideas that are quick, easy to implement and that are socially inclusive. I’m convinced that we can get there if we put in the resources and legal constraints for that. – F- Brantner
“A shift in power is absolutely crucial”
To conclude, both Bartley and Brantner emphasise the need to restructure our social and economic institutions, to rejuvenate the parliamentary system and to give those activists a voice and role in political parties that have successfully brought climate change to the forefront of politics.
“A shift in power is absolutely crucial for the transformation needed. And it has to come from bottom up.” – J. Bartley
The event was hosted by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce (RSA) in cooperation with Das Progressive Zentrum.