History of the Greens as a Political Force


The Roots of Green Policy

History of the Greens as a political ideology dates to the early 1970s although the idea itself has its origins in the 19th century. Most Green parties in Europe and elsewhere in the world drew inspiration for their programmes from much earlier movements that advocated environmentally sustainable society. These were formed in the 19th century in both Europe and the United States as a response to rapid industrialisation that paid little attention to the environment. The term ‘Greens’ was coined by the German Green Party that was founded in 1980.

The World’s First Green Party

The world’s first modern Green party with a focus on environmental issues - the United Tasmania Group - was created in Australia in 1972. It was set up with the goal to stop deforestation and dam construction on the Lake Pedder. The Australian Greens got only 3% in the state elections but they became a role model for other Greens throughout the world. A few months after the creation of the United Tasmania Group, the world’s first nationwide Green party was founded in New Zealand (the Values Party). And one year later, Europe got its first Green party as well - PEOPLE in the UK. It was renamed as the Ecology Party in 1975 and as the Green Party in 1985.

Rise in the Political Scene in the 1970s

The first Green movements in the modern sense of Green politics started in the late 19th century but the Green parties took off only in the 1970s. The first breakthrough in the political scene was made by the Belgian Greens in the late 1970s. They became the Europe’s first Green politicians to be elected to the parliament.

The German Greens

Although many people think that the German Green Party was the first of its kind in Europe, the Europe’s first Green party was created in the UK. The main reason for the misconception about the German Greens being the Europe’s first Green political force can partly be attributed to the huge media attention it received at foundation and partly to its influence outside Germany. The German Greens helped establish Green parties in many European countries and profoundly influenced their organisation and activity.

From the 1990s to the Present-Day

Despite the influence of the German Greens both at home and abroad, it was the Finnish Green party that became the Europe’s first Green party to enter the government in 1995. The German Greens, on the other hand, entered the government in 1998.

The UK’s Green Party was not as successful as its European counterparts, mainly due to the first past the post system. The UK’s Greens won their first seat in the House of Commons only in 2010. The Irish and Scottish Greens had more success in the Northern Ireland Assembly and Scottish Parliament, respectively, which do not use the first past the post system.