Non-Green MEPs largely ignore climate on Twitter

Parliamentarians from the EU’s power blocs might talk tough on global warming, but don’t engage with the most influential social media accounts, analysis shows

(Screenshot: Climate Home News)

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627 out of 751 MEPs may have Twitter accounts, but the vast majority are yet to join the conversation of the century.

Using a tool developed by Politico Europe and the journalist James O’Malley to track which Twitter accounts MEPs followed, Climate Home News found that most MEPs within the power blocs of the conservative European People’s Party (EPP), Social Democrats (S&D) and liberal Renew Europe (RE) groups do not follow a selection of most influential accounts on climate change.

This is despite the blocs’ pledges to address the climate crisis as a matter of priority, with RE and S&D currently demanding the EPP’s nominee for commission president present a tough plan for cutting emissions. The fourth largest grouping, the Greens, had a far higher engagement rate.

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Compiled by CHN, the list of 80 accounts (see below) featured key climate activists, campaign groups, institutions, EU politicians, UN figures, scientists, publications and think tanks. Just 6 out of 80 accounts were followed by more than 5% of MEPs from the EPP. That figure increased to 9 in the case of the RE, 14 in that of the S&D and to 44 in that of the Greens.

European representatives also took little notice of what ten of the world’s top climate scientists had to say. Pennsylvania State University’s Michael Mann was the most followed. But out of his 150,000 followers, only 7 were MEPs, with 5 of these from the Greens, 1 from the S&D and 1 from the EPP. No deputies from RE’s 94 MEPs subscribed to the account. Less than two MEPs from each of the three largest blocs followed a scientist.

Top UN climate figures and architects of the Paris Agreement were also largely ignored. Former UN chief Christina Figueres accrued a maximum following 0f 28 MEPs, or less than 5% of the total number of European representatives on the social network. No MEPs follow the accounts of Frank Bainimarama, Fijian prime minister and leader of the 2017 UN climate talks, Carolina Schmidt, Chile’s environment minister and next president of December’s climate talks, Luis Alfonso de Alba, secretary-general’s special envoy for the 2019 Climate Action Summit or the UN secretary general’s sustainable energy special representative Rachel Kyte.

The profiles of followers of the figurehead of the climate school strikes, Greta Thunberg, provide a case a point. Most of these hailed from the Greens (49% of the bloc follow her),  S&D (20%) and GUE-NGL (26%). In contrast, only 8% of the RE and 4% of the EPP followed the Swedish teenager. Zero MEPs from the right-wing populist group of Identity and Democracy (I&D) have signed up to her account.

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On the few occasions conservative EPP members enter the climate bubble, they privilege institutions, with 12 MEPs, or 8% of the EPP, following the account for the EU directorate-general for climate action.

Disengagement with specialized sources of knowledge is also chronic. By one MEP, CHN beat both Carbon Brief and Business Green as the most followed specialized English-language climate publication, with 14 MEPs. Considering that represents little more than 2% of the European Parliament, climate publications are losers on all counts in the MEP twittersphere.

Paris-based IDDRI and E3G were the most followed climate change think tanks, with 12 subscribers each. The Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions was all but ignored by MEPs, despite ranking as the world’s fourth most influential environmental think tank according to the Global Go To Think Tank Report 2018. Generally our selected think tanks left MEPs cold.

The ECR, I&D and GUE-NGL coalitions bypassed climate think tanks and scientists entirely.

Methodology

Our analysis looked into the extent to which MEPs followed what CHN considers some of the most influential figures of the climate Twittersphere. It’s our assumption that anyone engaging in policy about this issue would find at least some of these accounts interesting, provocative or useful. With 627 out of 751 MEPs on the social network, the data gives a snapshot impression of how engaged the European Parliament is with climate matters.

There are a few caveats to mind when looking at the results. The Politico tool uses data from late June and is not updated in real time so if an MEP has followed or unfollowed someone that will not be reflected in the results. It also does not distinguish between an account that is followed by one or zero MEPs.

The list of influential accounts by CHN does not claim to be exhaustive. In order to minimise the chances of results being skewed along political lines, we have chosen to include a variety of voices belonging to the fields of climate campaigning, research, or politics. We selected ten top accounts for the following categories: climate activists, movements and campaign groups, scientists, think tanks, publications, climate institutions and EU institutions.

CHN included Twitter accounts on the basis of their number of followers, while also trying to mind factors such as gender balance or nationality.

Last but not least, the results reflect upon the international conversation in English. This means that whenever we included organisations we opted to survey their international or European accounts rather than national. It is therefore possible that an MEP who is not following Greenpeace International could still be following Greenpeace France.

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And if you would like to follow them, here is our (non-exhaustive) list of climate influencers.

Activists and movements

Greta Thunberg @GretaThunberg

Extinction Rebellion @ExtinctionR

Fridays for Future @Fridays4future

Sunrise Movement @sunrisemvmt

Al Gore @algore

Bill McKibben @billmckibben

Laurence Tubiana @LaurenceTubiana

Naomi Klein @NaomiAKlein

Luisa Neubauer @LuisamNeubauer

Leonardo Dicaprio @LeoDiCaprio

Scientists

Michael E. Mann @MichaelEMann

Ed Hawkins @Ed_hawkins

Eric Holtaus @EricHolthaus

Johan Rockström @jrockstrom

Gavin Schmidt @ClimateOfGavin

Corinne Le Quere @clequere

Valerie Masson Delmotte @valmasdel

Jacquelyn Gill

Katharine Hayhoe @Khayhoe

Kevin Anderson @KevinClimate

10 climate institutions

EU Climate Action @EUClimateAction

UNFCCC @UNFCCC

UN Environment @UNEnvironment

IPCC @IPCC_CH

GCF @GCF_News

Cop25 @COP25CL

Cop24 @COP24

IEA @IEA

WMO @WMO

GEF @TheGEF

EU politicians

Teresa Ribera @Teresaribera

Miguel Arias Canete @MAC_europa

Claire Perry @Claireperrymp

Svenja Schultz @SvenjaSchulze68

Isabella Lovin @IsabellaLovin

Pascal Canfin @pcanfin

Ska Keller @Skakeller

Francois de Rugy @FdeRugy

Bas Eickhout @BasEickhout

Molly Scott Cato @MollyMEP

Publications

CHN @ClimateHome

Carbon Brief @CarbonBrief

Nature Climate Change @NatureClimate

NYT climate change @NYTClimate

Desmog @desmogUK

Clean Energy Wire @cleanenergywire

Business Green @BusinessGreen

Unearthed @UE

Euractiv Energy and Environment @eaEnergyEU

EcoWatch @ecowatch

Big NGOs

Climate Action Network @CANIntl

CAN Europe @CANEurope

Greenpeace @Greenpeace

WWF @WWF

350.org @350

Friends of the Earth @friends_earth

Climate Reality @ClimateReality

ClientEarth @ClientEarth

Carbon Disclosure Project @CDP

We Mean Business @WMBtweets

Climate think tanks

PIC potsdam @PIK_Climate

Stockholm Environment Institute @SEIresearch

Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research @TyndallCentre

LSE Grantham @GRI_LSE

IDDRI @IDDRI_ThinkTank

E3G @e3g

WRI @WRIClimate

Ecologic Institute @ecologicBerlin

The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions @C2ES_org

CarbonTracker @CarbonBubble

UN climate figures

Christiana Figueres @CFigueres

Patricia Espinosa @PEspinosaC

Frank Bainimara @FijiPM

Carolina Schmidt @CarolaSchmidtZ

Luis Alfonso de Alba @ladealba

Rachel Kyte @rkyte365

Hilda Heine @President_Heine

Paul Watkinson @pwatkinson

Svein T Veitdal @tveitdal

Erik Solheim @ErikSolheim

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