Will the world vote to save the planet?

By Konrad Poznanski

In a crucial year of elections, the economy is set to kill the environment.

This year is hugely important in determining the fate of both global politics and the environment. The people of both established and emerging geopolitical powers will have the chance to vote on their future, and their choices will impact the generations to come; for better or worse.

The most widely discussed election of this year is set to be held on the 5th of November, with Joe Biden and Donald Trump going head to head once again. While Trump was undoubtedly a disaster for environmental protection and climate change, the impact of his successor has been more mixed. The Biden Administration has made some positive steps in addressing climate change and un-doing some of the damage of Trump’s policies, such as re-joining the Paris Climate Agreement and the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes a $369bn investment to address climate change. Some estimates claim that this could reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the US by up to 43%

However, Biden has also been widely criticised for continuing to directly and indirectly support the fossil fuel industry. An infrastructure law introduced in 2021 has seen a large portion of the $1.2tn total package going to expanding roads, which reinforces car dependency and fossil fuel consumption. In addition, 6,430 permits for drilling oil and gas on public land were approved, which contributes to the US being the largest producer of oil in history

Furthermore, Statista reports that only 8% of Americans view the environment as the most significant issue facing the country, with inflation, economic issues, immigration and healthcare viewed as more important. This relative lack of interest and engagement gives those in power an excuse to continue the exploitation of natural resources in order to chase economic goals. 

Indonesia, often overlooked in international politics, held a general election on the 14th of February. The country has experienced relative prosperity and stability in recent years, and the President-to-be, Prabiowo Subianto, pledged to continue the policies that allowed for consistent economic growth and development in the country. This could have devastating consequences for the environment.

Already the world’s largest producer of nickel, this industry is set to expand in years to come. The production process pollutes water supplies, with cancer-causing chemicals and is extremely energy intensive, which in turn increases greenhouse gas emissions.

The rapid deforestation of Mangrove Forests also plague Indonesia’s environmental issues. These ecosystems are extremely valuable in the fight against climate change as they protect against coastline erosion and store up to 5 times more carbon than other tropical forests. But unfortunately, 40% of the country’s Mangrove Forests have been cut down in the last 3 decades, which has removed an important and effective carbon sink and has left coastal communities vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. A lack of opportunities in these areas means that many resort to burning Mangroves for charcoal despite acknowledging their significance to the local environment, highlighting the significance of economic inequality in environmentally harmful practices. 

The UK is expected to have a General Election later this year, with the two main parties having differing policies regarding the environment. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had previously proposed £28bn in funding for environmental projects, which included offshore wind farms, electric vehicle factories and investment into the hydrogen industry. However, this has since been cut down to less than £15bn, claiming economic insecurity caused by the Conservative government has made these targets difficult to achieve.  

On the other hand, the Conservatives have approved new oil and gas extraction projects, claiming that it is “necessary” for the transition to net zero emissions. In addition, Rishi Sunak has used anti-urbanist conspiracy theories promoting car dependency to influence transport policy, which plans to remove 20mph speed limits, and bus and cycle lanes, as well as stopping councils from fining drivers for traffic offences. These baseless conspiracies will inevitably lead to opposition to projects that not only help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also improve the quality of life of citizens. 

According to a YouGov poll, only 20% of British adults view the environment as one of the three most significant issues facing the country. Austerity measures have deepend social and economic inequalities, and consequently have made them more prevalent in Great Britain today. With economic stability decreasing and basic needs such as housing and healthcare becoming inaccessible to many, it is unsurprising that many don’t see the environment as an issue affecting their life.

Economic issues dominate the concerns that voters across the world have. Although this is not surprising, governments across the world must be responsible for improving the quality of life of its citizens while minimising harm to the environment. How is the economy meant to grow when the planet is rapidly running out of resources?


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