Populist far right discursive-institutional tactics in European regional decarbonization

What rhetorical strategies are populist far-right parties using to delay regional decarbonization? This paper focuses on three populist far-right parties—the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE), Alternative for Germany (AfD), and Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS)—and the discursive-institutional tactics each used from 2014 to 2021 to delay decarbonization of their carbon-intensive regions. We identify three discursive-institutional tactics used by populist far-right actors to delay decarbonization: (1) politicizing decarbonization, (2) reframing cultural values to form alliances with anti-decarbonization movements, and (3) dismantling key decarbonization institutions. We show that the populist far-right discursive-institutional tactics in European regional decarbonization are prevalent and vary widely. The politics of backlash against the EU-driven progressive public policies and anti-democratic rhetoric, including xenophobia and national sovereignty discourses are commonly used by these three populist far right parties to mobilize counternarratives against climate change and regional decarbonization. EKRE and PiS typically portray themselves as the protectors of social insurance and safety for vulnerable groups affected by regional decarbonization. PiS and AfD harness regional identity to mobilize civic engagement against decarbonization. All three parties work to empty and dismantle key decarbonization institutions. Overall, our findings suggest that carbon-intensive regions are particularly susceptible to the discursive tactics and institutional work of populist far-right parties, and may therefore provide opportunities for these parties to constrain decarbonization more broadly.


  • Centre for Climate and Energy Transformation, Department of Geography, University of Bergen, Norway