As the cost of living increases, climate change takes a back seat

Tacloban, Leyte, after Typhoon Haiyan hit in 2013. – Eoghan Rice / TrĂ³caire / Caritas / Wikimedia Commons

KUALA LUMPUR / MANILA / RIO DE JANEIRO – In the coastal town of Palo in the central Philippines, George Christopher Daga has seen heavy rains for several days that are considered hot and dry in April – one of the most unusual weather patterns in recent years.

In its own province of Leh, where Palo is located, the ground was empty for the country’s most devastating weather events since 2013, when Typhoon Haiyan hit the Southeast Asian country, killing 6,300 people and causing buildings to collapse.

Yet another typhoon, Rye, laid a path of destruction in Leite and nearby provinces in December, killing more than 300 people and displacing thousands.

“The world is going crazy. We don’t understand the weather these days, “Mr Daga, 33, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

But Mr Daga – who lost his job as a utility worker during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) epidemic – said climate change was not his main concern as Filipinos go to the polls on May 9 to elect a new president.

The problem is rarely caught in the disaster-prone Philippines – just one of several countries where global warming has lagged behind, including elections this year.

As the incidence of Covid-19 has increased Economic and social inequalityAnalysts say jobs and livelihoods have dominated the election agenda among rival politicians for the vote.

This is also the case in hard-hit countries like the Philippines, where an average of 20 tropical cyclones occur each year and is one of the countries most at risk for climate disasters.

Economy first

From heat to drought, the effects of climate change are becoming more frequent and intense – but efforts to reduce emissions and adapt to global warming are lagging behind, a UN intergovernmental panel on climate change warned this month.

Nevertheless, as countries from the Philippines to Lebanon and Brazil prepare for elections, climate change has not been identified as a major problem. Elsewhere in France, green parties have failed to make progress in recent elections.

This year, for the first time in a series of Philippine presidential debates, the focus has been on climate change, but otherwise the campaign has received very little attention.

“In order for politicians to be high on the agenda, it must be created as a livelihood problem,” said Jean Ensinas Franco, a political scientist at the University of the Philippines, focusing on the loss of income, crops and property.

He said greater efforts were needed to draw a “hidden” link between global warming and voters’ concerns about livelihoods or hunger so that climate change could be seen as a more pressing electoral issue.

“Ultimately, candidates have to deal with an issue related to the likelihood of getting votes,” Mrs. Franco said.

In Lebanon, climate change and renewable energy did not become a major issue before the country’s May 15 parliamentary elections, although the country has been experiencing severe power outages since mid-2021.

In Australia, the two main parties contesting the May 21 national election have said they will continue to support coal exports despite a growing Australian majority. Support for new coal mining ban And wants to cut exports.

‘Less on list’

Politicians who have shown how they can help people cope with COVID-19-related economic downturns and rising inflation have proved popular in recent elections, according to climate policy expert Danny Marks.

Mr Marks, an assistant professor of environmental politics at Dublin City University, said: “Although I think many voters around the world are concerned about climate change and the threats it poses, it is currently low on their list of priorities.

He cited the example of the Greens party in France, which did poorly in this month’s presidential election, when its candidate, Ianic Jadot, was eliminated in the first round of voting.

In contrast, the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who focused her campaign on the rising cost of living from her party’s anti-immigration policy, is second only to President Emmanuel Macron.

Mr Marx called on politicians concerned about climate change to highlight the immediate benefits of green change, such as renewable energy jobs and improved public health.

Political analysts say that in the Philippines, many people look at personalities and relationships with candidates rather than problems when voting for them.

Like most people in his province, Mr. Daga Ferdinand is backing “Bambang” Marcos Jr. – the son of the late dictator and leading presidential race – because his mother is a native of Imelda Lei.

“I will vote for Bangbong because he helped us during Typhoon Haiyan,” said Mr Daga.

‘Really scary’

In Brazil, where President Zaire Bolsonaro is expected to face former leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in the October election, climate change and the environment are not major concerns for voters, opinion polls suggest.

One, by consultancy Quaest this month, said the economy was the biggest problem for nearly half of the nearly 2,000 people surveyed, as the South American giant struggled with inflation, unemployment and low growth.

Others cite healthcare and corruption as major concerns. The list of climate change was not made.

“Economics and corruption – unfortunately those will be the main issues,” said Christian Romeo, a professor of political science at Ibmeck University in Rio de Janeiro.

“I will not bet on the environment as a problem to bring votes,” added Mrs. Romeo.

South Korean student Diane Lee says he hopes his country’s politicians – and elsewhere – will hear concerns about climate change.

South Koreans elected opposition candidate Eun Sook-eool as the country’s new president in March, an election dominated by controversy over rising house prices and youth unemployment.

“The climate crisis was not given much importance in the March elections. It’s a shame, “said Mrs. Lee, 19, who voted for the first time from her home in the southeastern city of Daegu.

“The crisis is getting worse, but no one seems to be paying attention. It’s really scary. ” – Beh Lih Yi, Manuel Mogato, and Fabio Teixeira / Thomson Reuters Foundation

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