UEF GREECE IN THE PRESS | Green Deal at a Crossroads: the impact of European Parliaments elections


Find here the link to the article entitled "Green Deal at a crossroads: The impact of European Parliament elections on EU climate policies" published on the EUROPEAN INTEREST site.
This article was written by Theodoros TSIKAS (Political Scientist – International Relations Expert, Vice-President of the Greek Union for the Federation of Europe – EEnOE/ UEF Greece) and Ms. Marovita Nikolaidou, Communications Officer of the UEF Greece. 

The European Union (EU) prides itself on leading the charge toward decarbonisation, aiming to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The European Green Deal, initiated in January 2020, has been the foundation of this effort, driving significant energy and environmental legislation across various sectors. However, political opposition and climate skepticism are gaining momentum, especially evident in the recent European Parliament elections.

Despite climate change remaining a critical issue for Europeans, economic concerns and security issues are now taking precedence, as shown by recent Eurobarometer polling. The evolving political landscape in the European Parliament could have substantial implications for EU climate policies, potentially hindering progress toward decarbonisation goals and influencing global climate policy standards.

The legacy of the previous European Parliament elections in 2019 saw climate change as a key voter issue, leading to Ursula von der Leyen‘s commitment to strong climate action through the European Green Deal. This initiative included ambitious policies like the Fit for 55 package, which expanded the EU emissions trading system, introduced the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, and set new standards for land use, transportation, and energy sectors.

Despite initial progress, the EU’s green momentum has waned due to a sluggish economic recovery, persistent inflation, and rising energy costs exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This has led to increased protests and opposition at both the national and EU levels, with key examples including a weakened German climate law and calls for a “pause” on EU environmental regulations from French President Emmanuel Macron.

The recent European Parliament elections saw a significant loss for Green parties, reducing their influence. The center-right European People’s Party (EPP), which holds the largest number of seats, supports global climate leadership but advocates for technology-neutral approaches, often clashing with the Greens and Socialists.

Looking ahead, the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group and the liberal Renew Europe group will continue to support the Green Deal, albeit with differing emphases on social justice and pragmatic implementation. Meanwhile, conservative and far-right groups like the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and Identity and Democracy (ID) oppose the Green Deal, advocating for local climate strategies and deeming decarbonisation targets unrealistic.

While the green agenda faces challenges, it is unlikely to be abandoned completely, especially if von der Leyen remains as European Commission president. The new distribution of parliamentary seats could lead to more conservative coalitions, but the Green parties might still play a crucial role in maintaining climate action priorities.

Abandoning the green transition would be a strategic error for European policymakers. Despite competing priorities, the climate crisis remains urgent, with Europe warming at twice the global average. To ensure the Green Deal’s success, policymakers need to link climate action with competitiveness and focus on implementation over new legislation, requiring strong political leadership from figures like von der Leyen and the EPP.

The urgency to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions is escalating, with the remaining carbon budget to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius shrinking rapidly. Although the EU contributes only about 7% of global emissions, it aims to lead by example through stringent domestic measures. However, the EU’s influence on global emissions necessitates a stronger external strategy, particularly in supporting international climate action and fostering equitable partnerships.

Drivers and challenges of EU Green diplomacy:

  1. Implementation of Climate Goals: The effectiveness of the EU’s strategy hinges on turning Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) into actionable green-transition plans. These plans, especially in emerging markets and developing economies (EMDEs), should be linked to international climate finance.
  2. Trade and Competitiveness: The Green Deal will impact trade partners significantly through mechanisms like the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) and reduced demand for oil and gas. Managing these repercussions requires strengthened EU external action and CBAM diplomacy.
  3. Critical Raw Materials: The transition to a green economy will heighten demand for critical raw materials, necessitating partnerships to secure these resources sustainably.

Priorities for enhanced Green diplomacy:

  1. Strengthening Partnerships: The EU needs to consolidate various partnerships into unified green-industrialisation frameworks with key EMDEs, promoting sustainable practices and technological innovation.
  2. Carbon Pricing and Taxation: Advancing global carbon pricing mechanisms and exploring international green taxation avenues will be crucial in aligning global efforts towards emission reductions.
  3. Trade and Climate Agreements: To prevent a green trade war, the EU should advocate for plurilateral agreements on green subsidies and tariffs, fostering collaboration with major global partners.

Addressing fragmentation and governance:

  1. Cohesive governance: The document calls for a dedicated Executive Vice President for the Green Deal to oversee both internal and external climate policies, ensuring streamlined and coherent action.
  2. Team Europe initiatives: Enhancing these initiatives through inclusive decision-making and financial incentives will bolster coordinated efforts across member states.

The EU faces a multifaceted challenge in implementing the Green Deal while maintaining global influence and addressing geopolitical and economic pressures. A pragmatic and cohesive approach to green diplomacy, centered on effective implementation, strategic partnerships, and robust governance, is essential for the EU to lead global decarbonisation efforts successfully. The upcoming 2024-2029 institutional cycle presents a critical opportunity for the EU to reinforce its leadership in global climate action.