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According to Colombian politician Petro, the growing presence of far-right movements is being driven by the middle class’s apprehension towards environmental policies.


The president of Colombia has cautioned that the growing popularity of far-right ideologies around the globe is fueled by middle-class concerns about potential declines in their quality of life due to environmentally-friendly policies.

During an extensive discussion with the Guardian at the Cop28 UN climate summit, Gustavo Petro, the first left-leaning president of Colombia, emphasized the importance of finding sustainable ways to achieve prosperity without relying on carbon emissions. He also stated that his country’s abundant biodiversity would serve as the foundation for its economic success once fossil fuels are no longer used.

The nation in South America has become a member of a coalition of countries advocating for a treaty to limit the spread of fossil fuels. Petro stated that his goal is to prevent the destruction of planet Earth.

The 63-year-old ex-guerrilla, who was elected in 2022, stated that Brazil must change its perspective towards the Amazon in order to protect it from destruction. Petro has clashed with President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva over the issue of oil exploration in the world’s biggest rainforest, which Petro wants to prohibit.

He stated that protecting the Amazon rainforest is a crucial aspect of addressing climate change on a global scale and that its significance is widely recognized by Colombians.

Despite being a major producer of coal, oil, and gas, Colombia has emerged as a prominent advocate for phasing out fossil fuels during the initial discussions at Cop28.

Petro stated that the consumption patterns in developed countries like the United States and Europe, as well as emerging societies like China, rely heavily on the use of carbon. This results in a sense of comfort, wealth, and a high quality of life. However, when the idea of decarbonisation is introduced, this foundation is disrupted. It is challenging to propose an alternative solution.

The battle against the climate emergency threatens our prosperity and denies its existence. This has caused fear among the middle and upper classes worldwide, as they contemplate the implications of transitioning to a decarbonized economy.

Colombia’s president, Gustavo Petro, standing at a lectern at Cop28

He stated that the increase in extreme right ideologies is mostly motivated by fear. This fear is influencing the mindset of the affluent middle class in Europe and the United States, who are afraid of losing their material possessions, comfort, and current standard of living due to societal changes.

He cautioned that immediate measures must be taken to reduce emissions in order to avoid further displacement of individuals due to the climate emergency.

If we do not take immediate action, there will be a rise in migration worldwide. This is due to the depletion of water in tropical regions. It is predicted that migration will reach hundreds of millions. This could lead to the emergence of a construct similar to what happened in Germany during the 1930s, fueled by fear of those who are different.

He stated that as anti-migration policies become more intense, the middle and upper classes, even in predominantly white Europe, start to perceive a sense of savagery associated with the incoming migrants.

On Tuesday during Cop28, Colombia became a member of the Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance, a group of governments and organizations dedicated to promoting the discontinuation of oil and gas production. Petro recognized that fossil fuels currently play a significant role in Colombia’s economy, but expressed that this will shift once production ceases.

He stated that, in his view, biodiversity is the foundation of our potential prosperity and Colombia has the potential to achieve it. The top three countries with the most biodiversity are Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela. As we can see, our wealth lies within those countries.

Three men pose with two women, one of whom as a feathered headdress on

At a summit in August organized by Lula, Petro spoke out strongly against continued fossil fuel exploration in the Amazon. While Brazil has made strides in reducing deforestation, Lula’s administration has also approved oil exploration in environmentally vulnerable regions. Additionally, Brazil is set to become a member of the oil cartel OPEC in 2024.

Petro explained that his disagreement with Lula regarding oil exploration was due to differing national situations.

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The increasing temperatures in the Amazon rainforest may lead to fires, releasing a large amount of CO2 into the atmosphere.2

The atmosphere is being replenished with substances that have been stored for thousands of years. This is a critical turning point that cannot be undone. Therefore, protecting the Amazon rainforest is a key goal in the fight against the climate emergency.

“We have gathered the governing bodies responsible for the jungle in Leticia, Colombia and Belém do Pará, Brazil – President Lula has attended all of these occasions. Brazil must undergo a change in its way of thinking.”

“In Colombia, we have a better understanding of the value of the jungle. However, there are harmful elements at play, such as illegal mining and drug-related money laundering, that contribute to its destruction.”

In Brazil, there has been a longstanding push to convert the rainforest into expansive farmland and estates. This has resulted in the deaths and assassinations of numerous indigenous and environmental leaders fighting against it.

According to him, it is challenging to suggest preserving the Amazon rainforest without utilizing it for commercial purposes, as well as its lands and territories, due to political reasons in Brazil. This is why someone like Bolsonaro was able to become a leader.

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Source: theguardian.com