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Green Wedge Tracker – Monitoring climate conversations

As part of the Green Wedge Project, the Green Wedge Tracker gives you a monthly overview of the social media climate conversation in 8 European countries.

May 2021

  • The European Green Deal discussion remains disconnected from the national climate discussion and heavily focused on announcements instead of policy engagement.
  • There is scepticism about climate change of differing intensity in different countries, but people generally minimize the impact of climate change on political dynamics.
  • We see growing debates around the concept freedom, used differently by different groups and generations (see our report), and around technology and energy choices.

    Focus on European Green Deal Discussions

    Most popular hashtags

  • Zero Pollution was a key theme of the EU Green Week especially given the publication of the Zero Pollution Action Plan as part of the European Green Deal.
  • Circular Economy and Hydrogen make it to the top 10 this month highlighting the important role they can play to reduce emissions in the transport industry, but also in the construction, fashion, retail, waste industries.
  • References to the recovery funds have slowed.

Key Twitter Events

European Green Deal discussions have generally intensified this month, especially around key events with peaks typically higher than March and the most extreme peak doubling that of previous month.  Events driving the peaks are:

  • 12/05: Commission’s Zero Pollution aAction Plan published as part of the EGD.
  • 20/05: European Bee Day & European Maritime Day gained prominence as part of the EU Green Week focus on the zero pollution impact on biodiversity and oceans.
  • Although EU Green Week is on 31/05 to 04/06, partner events are scheduled from 03/05 to 13/06
  • 31/05: All member-states approved Commission borrowing of EUR 750 billion for the recovery plan.

The Conversation in Numbers

  • The conversation remains very institutional. 64% of it is happening in English, but only 15% in Spanish, 10% in Italian, 5% in French and German.
  • Despite this, Spanish speakers this month have been very vocal, hogging 15% of the EGD conversation on the use of the EU recovery funds. In particular they focused on the lack of transparency, concerns around corruption, and support for the corporate world. Mainly been raised via the hashtag #opengenerationEU.
  • Hydrogen’ stood out in a debate that was 94% in English, with environmental activist being radically against fossil hydrogen, compared to the EPP group and some lobbies who argued for a gradual approach in the transition to green hydrogen.

#PetitionOfTheMonth

The “Urgent Petition: Save the European Green Deal!” on Change.org shared mainly among European Greens is calling for a more ambitious Green Deal and no more greenwashing. 60,000+ signatures were collected demanding to phase out coal, ramp up EU ETS, a ban on new cars with combustion engines, alongside praise for a 100% renewables energy mix.

 


National Discussions to Watch

Europe at all.

What about you, can you see climate change happening?

  • Although scepticism about climate change is visible in Poland, we have noticed this type of comment in all eight of the countries we cover: questioning climate change based on the temperature and weather on a particular day. Such comments tend to trigger large-scale engagement. They can lead to serious responses from climate supporters on the meaning of global warming and climate change as well as ironic comments such as below in Poland. Similarly, many top tweets especially in Germany, but also other countries, question the impact of humans on climate change.

Germany

Germany’s Greta

  • 9 out of the top 15 tweets on climate in Germany are posted by Luisa Neubauer with engagement between 7,000 and 16,000. She faces accusations of alarmism for her environmental stance, and of hypocrisy for removing mentions of long-distance trips on Instagram.

#socialjustice vs #freedom

  • With a climate debate framed by sceptics as a social and financial burden that restricts personal freedom (from mobility to food), and could lead to authoritarian government – environmentalists are pushing back against such accusations and responding with concerns for social justice and the freedoms that come from protection. The growing debate around ‘types of freedom’ finds an extension with the most popular video of the month in Germany: the Green’s Annalena Baerbock’s claim that “whoever protects climate protects freedom.”
  • As usual, more ironic messages making fun of older people who behave selfishly and without a care for future generations:

Election corner – not an easy time for the CDU

  • A report found that some members of the CDU benefitted from serving the interests of the car, gas, and anti-turbine lobbies by blocking the fight against the climate crisis over the years. This comes on top of the CDU candidate, A. Laschet and questionable  position on climate justice and protection. Despite the Court ruling, a spokesperson for the CDU/CSU argued that nothing is ‘missing in their plan to protect the climate’.

Fossil AFD

  • Efforts to normalize nationalism and legitimize some of the AFD’s most radical ideas through the #noafd campaign started in April with the goal to appeal to all ‘normalities’ and against disruptors of the (different) perception of normality (climate, migration…). When it comes to climate and normality (and against the hysteria of environmental activists), the AFD calls for prioritizing low energy prices by going back to a ‘balanced’ energy mix including fossil. For them, the energy transition is to blame for the growth in inequalities.

France

#FrenchNuclear again and again

  • French observers are warning against the direction of the German energy transition (supporting fossil gas in EU taxonomy vs nuclear) using the German Federal Audit report to back their pro-nuclear position. The Audit concludes that Germany faces potential electricity shortages as a result of the closure of coal-plants and an overly optimistic reliance on renewables. The argument is that such risks could jeopardize the social acceptance of the energy transition through increased energy costs.

Renewable: “All Greens are big fans of me” / Nuclear: “You mean mainstream Greens”
Renewable: “I don’t produce hazardous waste” / Nuclear: “I am at least available on demand”
Renewable: “Well, I am a high-growth sector” / Nuclear: “Worth checking at what price”
Global Energy mix / Coal: “Aren’t they cute” (they= Renewable + Nuclear)

Backlash against #climatechange

  • Rise of far-right vs #climatechange: France’s center-left candidate Audrey Pulvar’s linked the far-right with climate change. This made a splash right across the French media landscape and derailed her campaign. The right and far-right lashed out:  discrediting her comment and claiming hers was a desperate attempt to capitalise on the climate issue.
  • Terrorism vs #climatechange: The right-wing Les Republicains (LR) as condemned European Parliament findings linking terrorism to climate change. . This was described as ‘absurd’ by LR and accused the EU of minimising the main cause of terrorism: Islamic ideology.

Backlash against wind turbines

  • Picking up on the stirrings of a backlash against ‘government obsession’ with wind turbines  – depicted as destroying landscapes and biodiversity,  built on protected areas, and failing the  environmental litmus test. This after a virulent op-ed from government supporter and French Heritage Tzar, Stéphane Bern, referring to a “wind power dictatorship.”

#NewWordOfTheMonth: petro-masculinity

  • A long interview with US researcher Cara Daggett set the French media landscape alight as forces across the right struggled to make sense of the link between sexism and climate denialism and how these easily overlap if far right and right-wing populist discourse around issues of control and domination (of women and the planet) (some might say – duh).

Poland

End of the line for the forest?

  • Ruling party PiS attempted pass a bill privatising State Forests despite strong opposition. If privatized, opponents expected the development of multiple damaging hydrogen and waste management infrastructure. The bill was rejected, but the issue is expected to make regular come backs.  The government is accused of greenwashing and promoting an idealistic image of the forest instead of undertaking environmental action and protection.

Sweden

Criticism of #windpower

  • Voices are emerging against wind power and criticizing the green party for not being in touch with the countryside and overlooking the damaging impact wind turbines have on nature and biodiversity.

Government Inconsistencies

  • TV show Aktuellt highlighted government inconsistencies in the blink of an eye: a long report on climate was immediately followed by news of state subsidies for aviation and air travel.

Fair taxation?

  • With the tax on plastic bags being widely accepted as a tax to reduce pollution, governmental proposals to tax the newly designed reusable and biodegradable bag funded by EU research was perceived as no more than government drive to tax and raise revenue, rather than a tax based on environmental impact.

Spain

Refugee and migration

  • In the aftermath of the refugee influx into Spain from the Ceuta enclave, several news outlets raised the link between migration and the climate crisis.

Greens against green?

  • The Spanish Congress passed the long-awaited Climate Law on 13th May without the support of the right-wing PP, the green Más País, and far-right VOX. A host of tweets ridiculed the abstention of Más País depicting it as ‘the greens voting against green policy’, despite Más País decision to abstain in light of the law’s lack of ambition.

Biodiversity is a religious affair

  • On world biodiversity day, the Pope’s tweet received by far the most support in both Spain and Italy.

Glossary

Engagement = tweet+retweet

See you next month !


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