The European election results raise fears about the weakening of climate ambitions

The European election results raise fears about the weakening of climate ambitions – The police use water cannon against climate activists from the ‘Extinction Rebellion’ movement, who block the Utrechtsebaan on the A12 during a protest in The Hague, on September 9, 2023.

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The Green parties were on track to lose seats in the European Parliament elections. Preliminary results showed on Monday, raising concerns that the bloc is on the verge of scaling back its climate policies.

According to preliminary results, the left-wing Greens/European Free Alliance would win 52 seats in the legislature of the 27-member trading bloc. That is considerably lower than the 71 seats that the Greens/EFA won when the Green group had its strongest performance ever five years ago.

It comes amid a broader shift to the right and a green backlash – or ‘greenlash’ – against policies designed to tackle the climate crisis and protect the environment.

The far-right group Identity and Democracy made big gains across the European Union, while the right-wing European Conservatives and Reformists recorded a slight increase in votes.

In Germany, where the Greens govern as part of a so-called traffic light coalition alongside the center-left Social Democrats and the pro-business Free Democrats, support for the Greens has almost halved compared to 2019. Preliminary results showed the party in fourth place with 11.9% of the vote.

Support for the Greens also fell in Austria and France, where the far right fared better, prompting French President Emmanuel Macron to call early elections.

Across the continent, frustrated farmers have taken to the streets in recent months to push for further exemptions from the European Union’s environmental regulations. Nationalist and far-right parties – which have traditionally been skeptical of climate issues – are also outspoken critics of green policies.

If we do not accelerate action here, our European industry will lose this global race and that is what worries me.

Bas Eickhout

Main candidate for the Green Party

Bas Eickhout, the Green Party’s leading candidate, said support for far-right parties across the bloc could jeopardize Europe’s progress on climate action.

“I would say that the global green race is happening, and you see that in China, you see that in the United States, so this means that Europe really needs to step up its action,” Eickhout told CNBC’s Silvia Amaro.

“I’m not afraid to turn back, but if we don’t continue, if we don’t accelerate the action here, our European industry will lose this global race and that’s what I’m worried about. ”

Oak wood said in a separate statement on Sunday that the losses in France and Germany had “clearly been a blow” and that the rise of the far right was “extremely worrying for all who believe in a democratic European Union and in just and equal societies.”

Ricarda Lang (l-r), Federal Chairman of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, Terry Reintke, the Greens’ main candidate for the 2024 European elections, and Omid Nouripour, Federal Chairman of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, respond to the first expectations at the Greens’ election party at the Columbiahalle in Berlin.

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However, the Greens would come first in Denmark and the Netherlands – and Terry Reintke, another leading candidate for the party, said in the same statement that strong results for the party in Sweden and Finland should be seen as an “important milestone for the side”. our political family.”

Reintke pointed out that voters had elected Members of the European Parliament from Green parties in countries that had never before sent Greens to the European Parliament, such as Croatia, Latvia, Slovenia and Lithuania.

“It is now more important than ever to secure a stable pro-European democratic majority in the European Parliament. This democratic majority must come together against the extreme right,” Reintke said.

Green Deal ‘cannot go back’

Ahead of the vote, researchers warned that the outcome of the European elections was likely to change significant pressure on the European Green Deal, the flagship of the region’s carbon neutrality programme.

Pedro Marques, vice president of the center-left Socialist and Democrats, said Monday that pursuing climate policy will likely be a challenge given the support for the far right.

‘We are concerned, and from our side we will certainly not allow that [for] that will happen. Which means [the] The Green Deal cannot go back, but we are prepared to give it an extra twist: a Green Deal, but with care for the transitions,” Marques told CNBC’s Silvia Amaro.

“Our economy, our small businesses, our citizens are being affected by the transition to this new green economy, so let us support them – but that does mean we have to get back on the Green Deal,” he added.

Jorg Asmussen, CEO of the German Insurance Association and former deputy finance minister of Germany, said on Monday that he did not expect the outcome of the European elections to lead to a quick vote in Germany. He added that the country’s current coalition government will likely continue to muddle through until September next year.

“From what I see at the European level, the pro-European agenda and also the pro-competition agenda will not change. So the influence of the extremes on the right or left of politics will be limited,” Asmussen told CNBC’s Annette Weisbach. .

“I would see an influence in the migration policies of the EU and Germany, as well as on the Green Deal, which will certainly be recalibrated… because there is not enough support in the European Parliament in the future, but of course the climate problem will not go away, he added.

An activist shouts slogans during a Fridays for Future climate rally on Unter den Linden boulevard in Berlin, Germany on May 31, 2024.

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Environmental campaign group Greenpeace said that regardless of election results, voters across the bloc still rank climate change and saving nature among their top interests, arguing that a clear majority wants the EU to take action in these areas over the next five years.

“These elections will not make the climate and nature crisis any less existential,” Greenpeace EU campaigner Ariadna Rodrigo said in a statement. “Floods, droughts and heatwaves will only get worse, and all newly elected politicians will need to take action to preserve our planet’s ability to sustain life and give our children a future. Whoever is in power, we will hold them accountable and remind them of their responsibility.”

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