Climate activists joining 16-year-old Swedish Greta Thunberg for school strike against climate change in Stockholm, Sweden on April 12, 2019. Photo: Per Grunditz

Snowflake Resistance: Protecting the Paris Agreement Against Populism

With a concentrated focus on climate activism and the Paris Agreement, this commentary will explore the juxtaposed trajectories of populism and institutional degradation by illustrating the interwoven nature of populism and institutions, as well as resistance to populism and institutional degradation by exploring intersectional and intergenerational resistance within the framework of climate activism.

By Iysha Arun

Informally referred to as “snowflakes” by populists and the far-right, youth have been leading a proactive resistance against populist attempts to undermine democracy and discredit formal institutions. The impact of the so-called snowflakes may, at first sight, be seen as minor; however, their mounting influence should be seen as the beginning of a new era in understanding civil-society engagement with politics. Succinctly put by Wiliscroft-Ferris (2017), “snowflakes can become blizzards, and blizzards often become avalanches.” 

With a concentrated focus on climate activism and the Paris Agreement, this short discussion will explore the juxtaposed trajectories of populism and institutional degradation, specifically through illustrating the interwoven nature of populism and institutions. The paper will also explore resistance to populism and institutional degradation by exploring intersectional and intergenerational resistance to populism, specifically within the framework of climate activism.

The United Nations (UN) was established post World War II and modelled after its forerunner, the League of Nations. The UN is a reflection of globalisation, upholding the idyllic vision of prevention war and “to keep peace throughout the world” (UN, 2020). Although initially maintaining this peace was perceived through traditional understandings of war, the climate struggle has highlighted the possibilities for new understandings of war.

Referred to as a “catalyst for conflict” (UN, 2020), the disruptive scope of our current climate emergency is vast, from increased global food and water insecurities and allergy and health risks, (Cho, 2019), to mass displacement (IDMC, 2019). In a moving speech delivered at the Climate Action Summit (2019), Secretary-General Guterres summarized the crisis: “Our warming earth is issuing a chilling cry: ‘Stop.’ If we don’t urgently change our ways of life, we jeopardize life itself.”

Faced with such a crisis, the UN acted swiftly, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (effective since 1994) established the Paris Agreement of 2016. Binding to all its signatories, the Paris Agreement undertakes strategic decisions to combat climate change, with the commitment to “hold warming well below 2 °C in global mean temperature (GMT), relative to pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5 °C” (Vicedo-Cabrera et al, 2018). Such policy and global unity are necessary to prevent the catastrophic possibilities of runaway climate change.

However, the prospective success of the Paris Agreement is being curtailed by the rise of nationalist populist leaders from around the world. Under President Donald Trump, the US formally withdrew from the Agreement in 2017; in 2013, British populist Nigel Farage warned the European parliament, “We may have made one of the biggest and most stupid collective mistakes in history by getting so worried about global warming” (Todd & Parker, 2019); and in 2016, former French president Nicolas Sarkozy denied human impact on the climate, claiming, “you have to be arrogant like man to think that it is we who have changed the climate” (Goulard, 2016; Reuters, 2016). These are just a few examples of a concerning global trend.

In Come the Snowflakes, an Intersectional and Intergenerational Resistance

Set to re-write the narrative, climate change activists have been at the forefront of climate politics, taking to the streets and organizing school strikes and virtual protests (Bugden, 2020). Following the US pulling out of the Paris Agreement, Robert Bullard, a professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University, reminded that youth involvement has the potential to “demand actions over and beyond the general population” (Draxler, 2020)

Climate disasters have had a disproportionate impact on poorer citizens and Black and brown populations. In the US especially , this illustrates the intersection of race and class, as John Magrath, a researcher at Oxfam, emphasises that ethnic minorities “tend to live in the more marginal areas, exposed areas, that seem to be seeing more climate changes and are more susceptible to climate impacts because they have got less, and get less from governments.… It is a characteristic of all the studies that I have seen, that the ethnic communities are the people who suffer most from climate impacts and are the most vulnerable” (Baird, 2008)

Friends of the Earth, an environmental NGO, has further reiterated the relevance of race and class in the lived experiences of the victims of the climate crisis, emphasising the people least responsible for climate change are likely to be amongst the first impacted: “People who are socially, economically, culturally, politically, institutionally or otherwise marginalised are often highly vulnerable to climate change” (Friends of the Earth, 2020)

Youth have therefore narrowed in on intersectionality as a critical transformative element for the climate advocacy movements. Climate justice is also an issue of racial justice and economic justice. Through unifying racial justice and economic justice within a framework for environmental justice, the youth engaging with climate movements are shifting the way climate change activists engage in the political realm. When looking at increased youth voter participating in the 2020 US elections, it’s possible this played a major role in voting Trump out of office. And, as Bullard summarizes, “there’s a lot of knowledge built up in experience, and there’s a lot of energy that’s stored in young people … when you put the two together, you have … an excellent recipe for potential success” (Draxler, 2020). Professor Bullard highlights how older generations now play a role in “mentoring, assisting, and supporting” as well as lobbying and voting, “standing with, not in front of, youth.”

Consequently, intersectional and intergenerational climate activism has not just re-written the United States’ engagement with the climate issue in domestic politics, but with Joe Biden in office and returning the US to the Paris Agreement just hours after becoming president, this form of hybrid-activism may just have saved our global institutions for peace.


References

— (2016). “France’s Sarkozy says population bigger threat than climate change.” Reuters. September 16, 2016. https://www.reuters.com/article/cnews-us-france-politics-sarkozy-climate-idCAKCN11L2UD (accessed on May 8, 2021).

— (2017). “Climate change adaptation: our position.” Friends of the Earth. November 27, 2017. https://policy.friendsoftheearth.uk/policy-positions/climate-change-adaptation-our-position#:~:text=The%20Intergovernmental%20Panel%20on%20Climate,members%20of%20society%20can%20benefit (accessed on May 8, 2021).

— (2019). Global Report on Internal Displacement 2019. IDMChttps://www.internal-displacement.org/global-report/grid2019/  (accessed on May 8, 2021).

— (2019). “Remarks at 2019 Climate Action Summit.” United Nations Secretary-General. September 23, 2019. https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/speeches/2019-09-23/remarks-2019-climate-action-summit#:~:text=Our%20warming%20earth%20is%20issuing,rising%20and%20oceans%20are%20acidifying (accessed on May 8, 2021).

— (2020). Climate Change Exacerbates Existing Conflict Risks, Likely to Create New Ones, Assistant Secretary-General Warns Security Council. United Nations. July 24, 2020. https://www.un.org/press/en/2020/sc14260.doc.htm (accessed on May 8, 2021).

Baird, Rachel. (2008). “Briefing: The Impact of Climate Change on Minorities and Indigenous Peoples.” Minority Rights Group International. https://minorityrights.org/wp-content/uploads/old-site-downloads/download-524-The-Impact-of-Climate-Change-on-Minorities-and-Indigenous-Peoples.pdf (accessed on May 8, 2021).

Bugden, Dylan. (2020). “Does Climate Protest Work? Partisanship, Protest, and Sentiment Pools.” Socius : Sociological Research for a Dynamic World6https://doi.org/10.1177/2378023120925949

Cho, Renee. (2019). “How Climate Change Impacts the Economy.” State of the Planet. June 20, 2019.https://news.climate.columbia.edu/2019/06/20/climate-change-economy-impacts/ (accessed on May 8, 2021).

Draxler, Breanna. (2020). “The Power of Inclusive, Intergenerational Climate Activism.” YES! September 21, 2020. https://www.yesmagazine.org/environment/2020/09/21/intergenerational-climate-activism (accessed on May 8, 2021).

Goulard, Hortense. (2016). “Nicolas Sarkozy says climate change not caused by man.” Politico. September 14, 2016. https://www.politico.eu/article/nicolas-sarkozy-says-climate-change-not-caused-by-man-cop-21/ (accessed on May 8, 2021).

Todd, Eloise & Parker, Laura. (2019). “Facing up to climate change means facing down the European far right.” The Independent. May 14, 2019. https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/brexit-party-farage-european-elections-climate-change-far-right-eu-a8912821.html (accessed on May 8, 2021).

Vicedo-Cabrera, A. et al. (2018). “Temperature-related mortality impacts under and beyond Paris Agreement climate change scenarios.” Climatic Change150(3), 391–402. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-018-2274-3

Williscroft-Ferris, Lee. (2017). “Sustained Intersectional Resistance Can Defeat The Rise Of Right-Wing Populism.”HuffPost UK. January 24, 2017. https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/lee-williscroftferris/intersectional-feminism_b_14343214.html (accessed on May 8, 2021).

Photo: Matej Kastelic

ECPS Academy Civic Leadership Program (July 5-9, 2021)

Understanding and Responding to Global Challenges in an Age of Populism

Overview 

A new wave of populist politics defined by anti-establishment, nationalist and anti-minority agendas is gaining power around the world. Understanding the drivers and the impact of populist politics on democracy is key to tackling the most critical challenges facing our world today. The ECPS Academy Civic Leadership Program supports the empowerment of future generations by deepening their understanding of global challenges, helping participants to develop constructive and effective responses. The five-day Civic Leadership Program offers young people a dynamic and engaging learning environment with an intellectually challenging program, allowing them to grow as future academic, intellectual, activist and public leaders.

Each day offers interactive lectures, led by world-leading practitioners and experts from varied disciplinary backgrounds. The lectures are complemented by discussions, group interactions, and assignments on selected key issues to upgrade participant knowledge, qualifications and skills. Participants have the opportunity to collaborate with those from different socio-political contexts, developing invaluable cross-cultural skills and a truly global knowledge of our times. This program seeks to contribute to the personal and academic development of each participant and foster social responsibility and awareness among future leaders from all around the world. 

Who should apply?

This unique course is addressed to outstanding candidates interested in gaining a more comprehensive and critical understanding of how current global issues are linked to the rise of populism. A select group of participants will be chosen based on merit, with applications welcomed from students pursuing bachelor’s and master’s degrees of any discipline, and early career professionals between the ages of 18 and 30. Participants are selected on the basis of a letter of motivation, a CV and a research proposal of between 250 and 500 words. We value the high level of diversity on our courses, welcoming applications from people of all backgrounds. The deadline for submitting applications is June 20, 2021.

Topics covered

Projects

Individual project: Participants write an article on a topic of their choice based on one of the themes discussed during the program. They are expected to plan and produce original work that presents arguments in a clear and balanced way drawing on multiple sources. They will be mentored by one of our in-house experts to complete this assignment successfully. The articles will be between 2,000 and 3,000 words and need to be submitted within a month from the end of the program, and selected papers will be considered for publication on ECPS Youth blog.  

Group project: Participants will collaborate in tailored groups of two or three to decide on a societally relevant issue that is addressed in the lectures and explore/design a creative project that involve solutions to tackle with it. Participants are encouraged to draw upon skills and knowledge from their disciplinary backgrounds in developing their projects. Ideas for a group project include but are not limited to creating an infographic or a series of podcasts, making an explainer or a screencast video, social media projects, street interview, public speaking, collaborative writing, engaging with a selected community to address a community-identified need. The projects need to be submitted within two months from the end of the program.

Participant Reflections

To consolidate their intellectual and personal growth, we ask that each participant share their personal reflections on their development, as well as the design and content of the program.

Evaluation Criteria

Meeting the assessment criteria below is required from all participants aiming to successfully complete the program and receive a certificate of attendance in the end. These three evaluation criteria include full attendance, active participation in lectures, successful completion of individual paper assignment and successful completion of group project assignments.

  1. Full attendance and active participation in lectures

Participants are expected to show up in all the lectures and actively participate in the discussions to meet the minimum assessment requirements. In case of failure to attend a lecture without a valid reason, participants will not be considered for assessment. Acceptable reasons for not attending a lecture include 1) serious illness at the time of the lecture (i.e., illness sufficiently serious to warrant a visit to a health professional); 2) grave family or personal emergency.

2. Successful completion of individual paper assignment

Participants are to write a blogpost article on a topic of their choice based on one of the themes discussed during the program. They are expected to produce original work that presents arguments in a clear and balanced way drawing on multiple sources. Participants can request mentorship by one of our in-house experts to complete this assignment successfully. This will be arranged based on the availability of our experts when the request is made.

The articles will be between 2,000 and 3,000 words and need to be submitted within a month from the end of the program. Please make sure that the facts you mention are supported by research and include a primary reference in the form of a hyperlink. You can also use footnotes to provide context and explanation for your article. Selected articles can be published on ECPS website or submitted elsewhere for publication. Each completed article is assigned to one of our in-house experts to be evaluated based on the following criteria: clarity, depth, originality, and relevance.

3. Successful completion of group project assignments

Participants will collaborate in tailored groups of two or three to decide on a societally relevant issue that is addressed in the lectures and explore/design a creative project that involve solutions to tackle with it. Each group will be informed by the coordinators about who they will work with after the end of the program. Groups are encouraged to draw upon skills and knowledge from their disciplinary backgrounds in developing their projects. Ideas for a group project include but are not limited to creating an infographic or a series of podcasts, making an explainer or a screencast video, social media projects, artistic or literary projects, street interview, public speaking, collaborative writing project, engaging with a selected community to address a community-identified need.

For any selected project, two reports are required. One is a project proposal of between (300-500) words specifying the goals and objectives of the project and secondly a final report (1,000-2,000) describing the results and outcomes of the project. The project proposals will be submitted before the project initiation. The completed projects and the final reports need to be submitted within two months from the end of the program. They will be evaluated by a committee made up of three ECPS experts based on the project’s societal impact, relevance, innovation, and content quality.

Learning Outcomes

Educational outcomes of this program for participants’ intellectual, professional and personal development include:

Knowledge: Participants deeply engage with multi-disciplinary issues surrounding populism with a range of experts to build critical knowledge and understanding. They are able to identify populist rhetoric and its impact on democracy, human rights, and values and draw advanced connections between how populism operates in different parts of the world.

Skills: Participants attending this program develop a comprehensive set of skills that are highly valuable to their intellectual and personal growth and empowerment. The training will cultivate participants’ use of basic methodological skills and tools needed for academic research and learning. In addition, working together on a group project will advance their collaborative skills and creativity.

Cross-cultural Competence: Participants develop their cross-cultural competencies, meeting with like-minded individuals from around the world to develop a higher understanding of current world problems. They learn to speak confidently and respectfully on complex and controversial issues, and value contrasting perspectives. As they engage in academic exchange and share their ideas and experiences with others, participants develop empathy, tolerance, curiosity and understanding for each other’s views.

Social/Civic Responsibility: Participants build a sense of civic responsibility and awareness of global challenges as they are taught concrete strategies to deal with the impact of populist politics. They apply critical thinking and media literacy in countering misinformation and learn about how they can foster community engagement and solidarity in fighting against critical global challenges.

Credit

This course is worth 5 ECTS in the European system. If you intend to transfer credit to your home institution, please check the requirements with them before you apply. We will be happy to assist you in any way we can, however please be aware that the decision to transfer credit rests with your home institution.

Certificate of Attendance

Awarded after program to all participants based on the satisfactory participation in, and completion of, the course assignments. Certificates are sent to students only by email.

Fee

ECPS believes that this world-class opportunity should be open to all, regardless of financial background. Therefore, this five-day program is available for just €20.

Program Flow

The program will take place online via Zoom between July 5-9, 2021. There will be two sessions on each day. Please note that this schedule is tentative and may be subject to change depending on the circumstances. 

July 5, 2021

  • Populism: An introduction(13:00-15:00 PM CET). Speaker: Dr. Anthoula Malkopoulou
  • Varieties of populism (18:00-20:00 PM CET). Speaker: Dr. Steven M. Van Hauwaert

July 6, 2021

  • Populism, democracy, and authoritarianism (15:00-17:00 PM CET). Speaker: Dr. Tsveta Petrova
  • Populism, nationalism and identity (18:00-20:00 PM CET). Speaker: Dr. Daphne Halikiopoulou

July 7, 2021

  • Populism and religions (14:00-16:00 PM CET). Speaker: Dr. Jocelyne Cesari
  • Populist discourse and digital technology (18:00-20:00 PM CET). Speaker: Dr. Majid Khosravinik

July 8, 2021

  • Gender, race and populism (13:00-15:00 PM CET). Speaker: Dr. Haley McEwen
  • Digital populism: internet and far-right (18:00-20:00 PM CET). Speaker: Dr. Eviane Leidig 

July 9, 2021

  • Environment and populism (13:00-15:00 PM CET). Speaker: Dr. Kai Bosworth
  • Radicalization and violent extremism (18:00-20:00 PM CET). Speaker: Dr. Daniela Pisoiu

Program Coordinators

This program is coordinated by Dr. F. Zehra Colak in collaboration with ECPS Youth Program members. Submit your application: [email protected]