Climate action and populism of the left in Ecuador

There is little reason to expect developing countries to take costly local actions for global climate benefits. This is less so when populist governments of the left – who claim to speak for the poorest sectors of the population – must negotiate environmental protection and development. This article examines climate action in Ecuador, one of the poorest countries of Latin America, during a populist moment. We propose an analytical framework that explains how moments of institutional rupture create space to articulate ideational and material interests towards climate action. We explore this by analyzing an initiative that would have left oil underground in exchange for compensation by the international community. Beyond the rise of significant personalities, populist moments signal a rupture where power relations, norms, and development trajectories can be reconfigured. Populists are political entrepreneurs who articulate these conditions for personal gain, but populist moments also reveal space for climate action.

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