It all comes down to us

With the US's new President inspiring the racist right and populating his cabinet with climate change deniers, the Green Party's Co-Leader argues that it is down to us in the Green Party to stand for something different

Caroline Lucas
Tue 17 Jan 2017

Waking up on the morning of November 9th felt familiar: a result that most people hadn't expected, a win for a movement claiming to be anti-establishment, and what felt like a body blow for Green politics. Just five months after the devastating result of the referendum and the struggle against the forces of evil had just become even harder.

As Jill Stein writes in these pages, Trump's election left the USA 'reeling'. I know that people woke up that morning in genuine fear for their future - and those concerns won't have faded away. In particular, a win for a misogynist, racist candidate will have left women and people of colour in the USA feeling more vulnerable than ever. The 'land of the free' is feeling a lot less free than it was before.

It's not just citizens of the USA who fear a Trump presidency. His win reinforces a sense that right-wing populism is in resurgence across the Western world. Here in Europe - with Le Pen in France, Jobbick in Hungary and Alternative for Germany (AFD) in Germany - we're seeing the boiling over of bigotry, and gains for far-right parties. In Britain, this toxic politics has made its way onto our streets - with a rise in hate crime against migrants, and increasing divisions in our communities. Every country has its own unique politics, but we'd be foolish not to engage with the fact that the politics of fear is capturing democracies right across the Western world.

It's not just a rise in racist politics that's deeply concerning. Trump's election also poses a profound threat to the global movement against climate change. Not only does the president not believe that climate change is manmade, but his cabinet level appointments show an utter disregard for our environment. An astounding nine members of his top team deny even basic climate science - with his Secretary of State (who is in charge of international climate policy) being the former CEO of ExxonMobil. Trump's policy proposals - to end the moratorium on coal mining, to support new fossil fuel infrastructure and to scrap President Obama's Clean Power Plan - are exceptionally reckless.

Such a boost for climate change deniers has distinct parallels here in Britain. The Leave side of the EU campaign was first registered in the same building as Lord Lawson's climate-sceptic Global Warming Policy Foundation (and Lawson chaired the Vote Leave campaign). Many politicians who have risen to prominence - such as Boris Johnson, Andrea Leadsom and Nigel Farage - are known to have been climate sceptics. We're in danger of climate change being painted as some sort of metropolitan preoccupation, rather than the very real threat it poses to all of our livelihoods.

Clearly, Trump's election poses a threat to the climate movement, but, worrying as it is, I do not believe the threat is existential. For a start, the threat is neutralised to some extent by the global nature of our movement - from the First Nations communities blocking the Keystone pipeline, to the energy cooperatives springing up across the world and the anti-fracking campaigns here in Britain. For every attempt to extract fossil fuels from the ground, there are people dedicated to keeping them where they should be. The economics is also stacked against climate change deniers. Renewables are competing with and beating fossil fuels when it comes to cost, and huge investment from China and others will further drive the price of clean energy down. Additionally - and looking specifically at the situation in the USA - Trump's damaging plans will be curtailed in a federal system where many key Republican states have strong low-carbon economies and will resist attempts to cut funding.

Like Jill Stein, and no doubt like many of you reading this, I am truly worried about the effects of Trumpism, but I am hopeful that his regressive politics can be overcome - and I believe it is down to us in the Green Party to stand for something different.

When it comes to racism and xenophobia, I am really proud that we were clear in the EU referendum that we will never blame the challenges we face on people who have come from elsewhere to live, work and study in the UK. In recent weeks, we've redoubled our commitment to freedom of movement within Europe - and we continue to call on the government to adopt a humane immigration system. And our voice on climate change has never been more necessary - when much of the political mainstream seems willing to ignore the greatest threat we face. In the coming months, it's down to all of us to be working with campaigners to build up anti-racism and climate movements as we face a fast-changing and at times scary world in 2017.