EU Climate Policies in the Crosshairs After Green Parties Implode in Weekend Elections

The decline in support comes as the European Commission is working towards an aggressive 2040 climate target that aims to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent.

AP/Vadim Ghirda
People vote in European and local elections in Baleni, Romania, Sunday, June 9, 2024. AP/Vadim Ghirda

Green party candidates took a beating in the European Union elections on Sunday, signaling some backlash to aggressive climate policies and potential setbacks for the region’s broader climate goals. 

Preliminary results showed the Greens/EFA party losing 18 seats in the European elections, pushing it to sixth place, with 53 seats held in total. Losses were especially strong in Germany, as the party’s share was nearly cut in half from the 2019 election, the Guardian reports, and in France, where support similarly declined.

The losses indicate that climate policies and green agendas have “slipped down the agenda with voters” who are instead prioritizing inflation and national security, a French news agency, AFP, reports

As the European Parliament sees a general shift to the right, some observers say it could make it more difficult for Green parties to make headway on climate policies. 

“All new policies will be harder to pass. But backsliding is very unlikely,” Poland’s secretary of state for climate, Krzysztof Bolesta, told Reuters. Bulgaria’s former environment minister, Julian Popov, acknowledged that “new ambition” could be delayed. 

Earlier this year, the European Commision recommended an aggressive 2040 climate target that it said aimed to reduce the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent compared to 1990.

“The 2040 climate target will reaffirm the EU’s determination to tackle climate change and will shape our path after 2030, to ensure the EU reaches climate neutrality by 2050,” the commission wrote

The Greens/EFA group’s leadership acknowledged that the losses, especially in Germany and France, were “a blow” but promised to “to work to find a way forward” and noted the successes in other European countries, including in Denmark and the Netherlands. 

“The rise of the far-right in today’s elections is extremely concerning for all those who believe in a democratic European Union and in just and equal societies.” the Greens/EFA vice president, Bas Eickhout, said in a statement. 

Speaking to Reuters, he said, “I don’t think that we’ll be rolling back on (climate) policies. But I do think that it will be more complicated to get new policies off the ground.”

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