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Understanding the European Elections 2024
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Blog...Understanding the European Elections 2024

Understanding the European Elections 2024

Ecology News
Policy
Europe
This article offers an in-depth analysis of the 2024 European Elections, highlighting the stakes surrounding the EU Green Deal and the anticipated focus of the new parliament on green initiatives.
Ecology News
2024-06-10T00:00:00.000Z
en-us
Europe

Between 6-9 June 2024, voters across the European Union headed to the polls to elect the next European Parliament. This election is crucial, not just for the political landscape of Europe, but for the future of the bloc's climate policies. The results, which saw significant gains for the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and far-right groups, will significantly impact the EU's approach to environmental sustainability, green legislation, and the implementation of the European Green Deal.

👉 In this article, we provide an in-depth look at the results of the 2024 European Elections, including the previous parliament's climate policies and what the new parliament is likely to focus on regarding green initiatives.

Context of the European elections 2024

Between 6-9 June 2024, citizens from across the European Union's 27 member nations voted to elect 720 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). The outcome of this election will determine the future of the European Green Deal and the EU's climate policies, especially amid a significant rise in populist right-wing influence, which poses a threat to progress towards sustainability and climate neutrality.

The previous European Parliament elections, held in May 2019, marked a significant shift in the political landscape of the European Union, particularly from an environmental perspective. These elections saw a surge in support for Green parties across Europe, reflecting a growing concern about climate change and environmental sustainability. The Green/EFA group (European Free Alliance) managed to secure 74 seats, making it the fourth-largest group in the Parliament. This success can be largely attributed to the increased visibility of climate change issues and the surge of environmental protests across the continent - largely inspired by the Fridays for Future strikes led by Greta Thunberg - which put pressure on politicians to prioritize environmental issues.

The increased representation of Green parties in the European Parliament has had a substantial impact on EU policy-making. Environmental issues have been pushed to the forefront of the legislative agenda, with significant advancements in climate policy and sustainability initiatives. Key among these initiatives is the European Green Deal, an ambitious plan aiming for the EU to become climate-neutral by 2050. This policy framework includes measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions, invest in renewable energy, and promote circular economy practices. However, this progress may be under threat from the rise in support for populist parties, leaving Europe’s green legacy hanging in the balance. 

EU flag blowing in the wind

EU election 2024 results

The 2024 election results have revealed significant shifts in the political dynamics of the European Parliament. The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) emerged victorious, tightening its grip on the chamber with around 186 seats. This makes the EPP the best positioned to influence EU policy, likely tilting the agenda to the right. Far-right groups also made major gains, particularly in France and Italy, signaling a shift towards more conservative policies. In contrast, the Green/EFA group suffered substantial losses, dropping from the fourth to the sixth largest group in the Parliament. The liberal Renew Europe group also faced significant setbacks.

With the EPP's strengthened position and the far-right's rise, the new parliament is expected to take a more conservative approach to policy-making. This could impact the future of the European Green Deal and other climate initiatives, as the EPP and its allies may push for policies that favor industry and rural interests over aggressive climate action. The new parliament's stance on climate policy will be crucial in determining whether Europe can stay on track to meet its 2030 climate targets and achieve climate neutrality by 2050.

As the EU navigates this new political landscape, the balance of power within the Parliament will play a critical role in shaping the bloc's environmental policies. The upcoming legislative term will be a test of the EU's commitment to its climate goals and the resilience of its green initiatives in the face of growing populist influence.

election result infographicelection result infographic
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What was the previous EU parliament’s approach to climate change?

The previous European Parliament made significant progress in addressing climate change, driven by the ambitious European Green Deal introduced by the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen. This strategy aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. Key to this goal are initiatives that promote sustainability, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and foster green innovation across all sectors of the economy.

One of the cornerstone achievements of the previous Parliament was the adoption of the European Climate Law, which legally binds the EU to reach climate neutrality by 2050 and sets an intermediate target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. This legislation underpins a range of EU policies designed to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy, including the expansion of the Emissions Trading System (ETS) and stricter emissions standards for vehicles and industries.

Another critical piece of legislation is the Nature Restoration Law, which mandates the restoration of degraded ecosystems and aims to enhance biodiversity across the EU. This law requires member states to develop and implement plans to restore at least 20% of their land and marine areas by 2030. Additionally, regulations to reduce methane emissions - a potent greenhouse gas - have been strengthened, and new standards for heavy-duty vehicle emissions have been introduced to curb pollution from the transport sector.

Despite these advancements, the Parliament's climate agenda faced growing challenges and criticisms in recent years. Some member states and political parties argued that the Green Deal's targets are overly ambitious and economically burdensome, particularly in the context of the ongoing economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing cost of living crisis. Conversely, there are also those who argue that the EU’s climate policies don’t go far enough and that the inclusion of fossil gas in the EU taxonomy for sustainable activities undermines the integrity of the EU's climate goals.

Another notable recent challenge was the withdrawal of a proposed EU law aimed at halving the use of chemical pesticides across the EU. This decision, made by von der Leyen in February 2024, came amid a backlash from right-wing politicians and widespread protests from farmers. The proposal - part of the EU's Farm to Fork strategy - faced intense opposition and was ultimately scrapped despite attempts to find a compromise that would promote greener alternatives to chemical pesticides. However, environmental groups and water companies criticized the withdrawal, expressing concerns about the implications for biodiversity and water quality.

As the results of the 2024 elections reveal a significant shift in the political dynamics of the European Parliament, the achievements and shortcomings of the previous Parliament's climate policies will be under scrutiny. The center-right European People’s Party (EPP) emerged victorious, while far-right groups made significant gains. This new political landscape poses challenges for the continuation of ambitious climate policies. The future direction of the EU's climate agenda hinges on how the new Parliament navigates these political changes, making it a crucial moment for Europe's environmental strategy.

What’s at stake in the EU elections 2024?

The 2024 European elections are a pivotal moment for the future of the EU's climate policies. At stake is the continuity of the European Green Deal, which aims to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. The outcome of these elections will determine whether the EU can maintain its ambitious climate targets or if policy shifts will undermine recent progress.

One of the major issues at stake is the European Green Deal itself. This plan includes a wide range of initiatives aimed at reducing carbon emissions, promoting renewable energy, and enhancing sustainability across sectors. The deal has set the EU on a path to significant environmental reforms, but its future depends on the support of the new European Parliament. The shift towards a more conservative or right-wing Parliament could lead to a dilution of these policies, as seen with the recent withdrawal of the pesticide reduction proposal.

The 2024 elections will also impact the EU’s ability to meet its 2030 climate targets, which include a 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 levels. Achieving these targets requires the implementation of stringent regulations and significant investments in green technologies. The new Parliament will play a central role in either supporting or obstructing these efforts. With the EPP's strengthened position and the rise of far-right parties, a Parliament influenced by climate-skeptical parties might limit the introduction of further regulations and reduce funding for green initiatives. This shift could pose a significant challenge to maintaining the momentum of the EU's current climate policies.

Another important consideration is the EU’s ongoing commitment to biodiversity and ecosystem restoration. The Nature Restoration Law, which aims to restore degraded ecosystems, is a vital part of the Green Deal. However, the law has faced opposition from agricultural and industrial lobbies, and its fate will likely depend on the post-election Parliament’s stance on environmental conservation. A supportive Parliament could strengthen and expand these efforts, while opposition might result in weakened commitments and slower progress.

The political outcome of the election presents different paths for the EU’s climate policy. With the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) and far-right groups making significant gains, a more conservative Europe could potentially roll back ambitious climate policies. This shift might lead to a dilution of the European Green Deal's initiatives. On the other hand, if coalitions can still be formed with pro-environment parties like the Greens and Socialists, there may still be a push for more aggressive climate action and support for the Green Deal's objectives.

The election results will also influence the EU's international climate leadership. The EU has positioned itself as a global leader in climate policy, and maintaining this role requires consistent and bold actions. A Parliament that supports robust climate policies will enable the EU to lead by example and exert pressure on other countries to enhance their climate commitments. On the other hand, a retreat from ambitious policies could weaken the EU’s influence on the global stage and hinder international efforts to combat climate change.

The 2024 European elections are crucial for the future of the EU’s climate policies. The outcome will determine whether the European Green Deal and its initiatives will continue to drive significant environmental reforms or if the recent shift in political power towards more conservative and far-right parties will lead to a scaling back of these efforts.
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Detailed election results and key takeaways

The 2024 European elections have brought about significant changes in the composition of the European Parliament. The center-right European People’s Party (EPP) secured around 186 seats, reinforcing its dominance. This puts the EPP in a strong position to shape the legislative agenda, potentially steering it towards more conservative policies. Far-right parties also made substantial gains, particularly in countries like France and Italy, reflecting a rise in populist sentiment across Europe.

In contrast, the Green/EFA group saw a considerable reduction in its representation, falling from the fourth to the sixth largest group in the Parliament. The liberal Renew Europe group also experienced notable losses, weakening its influence.

Key takeaways from the 2024 election results include:

  • EPP’s enhanced influence - With an increased number of seats, the EPP is poised to drive policy decisions, likely prioritizing economic and industrial interests. This strengthened position means the EPP will likely steer legislative priorities, potentially favoring more conservative and industry-friendly policies. Their central position also makes them key players in coalition-building, which will be crucial for passing legislation.
  • Rise of the far-right - Far-right parties, including France’s National Rally and Italy’s Brothers of Italy, made substantial gains. This shift indicates a rising populist sentiment across Europe. These parties are expected to challenge existing EU policies on climate, immigration, and integration, pushing for a more nationalist agenda. The fragmentation within the far-right may prevent a unified front, but their influence will undoubtedly put pressure on the EPP and other centrist parties.
  • Setback for Greens and Liberals - The Green/EFA group’s reduction in seats from the fourth to the sixth largest group in the Parliament signifies a considerable setback. This will limit their ability to advocate for aggressive climate policies and sustainability initiatives. The Renew Europe group’s losses further weaken the liberal pro-environment stance, reducing the overall push for progressive environmental legislation.
  • Uncertainty over Ursula von der Leyen’s future - The re-election of Ursula von der Leyen as President of the European Commission is now more uncertain. While she has backing from the EPP, the rise of the far-right and the weakened Renew Europe group complicates her ability to secure a majority. She will need to navigate complex political alliances and garner support from a fragmented Parliament to continue her leadership.
  • France’s decision to hold an election - In response to a poor performance in the EU elections, French President Emmanuel Macron dissolved the National Assembly and called for a snap national election. This move reflects his effort to reassert control and address the growing influence of far-right politics in France. The outcome of this national election could have significant implications for France’s role in the EU and its support for EU-wide initiatives.
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What results mean for climate policy and the EU Green Deal

The 2024 European elections have set the stage for significant shifts in the EU’s climate policy landscape. The new composition of the European Parliament introduces both challenges and opportunities for the European Green Deal.

Potential policy shifts toward pragmatism

The EPP's increased influence, coupled with the rise of far-right parties, suggests a shift towards more pragmatic and economically driven climate policies. This could result in a focus on incremental progress rather than sweeping reforms, emphasizing cost-efficiency and economic growth over ambitious climate targets.

Reassessment of green initiatives

With a more conservative Parliament, existing green initiatives may undergo reassessment. Policies that are perceived as economically burdensome might be scaled back or adjusted. This reassessment could lead to a prioritization of initiatives that offer immediate economic benefits, such as job creation, over long-term environmental goals.

Emphasis on energy security

The geopolitical landscape, especially considering recent global events such as the ongoing war in Ukraine and Gaza, might push the new Parliament to prioritize energy security. This could lead to increased investments in domestic energy production, including renewables, but also a potential reconsideration of certain fossil fuel projects deemed critical for energy independence.

Balancing act for climate targets

Meeting the 2030 climate targets will require a delicate balancing act. The new Parliament may seek to balance ambitious climate goals with economic stability, potentially leading to more flexible timelines and adaptable regulatory frameworks.

Focus on technological innovation

A more conservative Parliament might emphasize technological innovation as a key driver for climate action. This could result in increased funding for research and development in green technologies, with a focus on scalable and commercially viable solutions that can be deployed to reduce emissions. However, solely relying on technological advances to solve the ongoing climate crisis is not a viable solution - decarbonization is still key.

Strengthening local and regional initiatives

There may be a shift towards empowering local and regional governments to take the lead on climate initiatives. This decentralized approach can foster innovation and tailor solutions to the specific needs of different regions, promoting a more diverse strategy for achieving climate goals, but it risks certain areas falling behind.

Round up

The 2024 European elections have introduced a new era of political dynamics within the European Parliament, bringing both challenges and opportunities for the EU’s climate policy. The strengthened position of the EPP and the rise of far-right groups suggest a potential shift towards more pragmatic and economically driven environmental policies. As the new Parliament navigates these changes, the future of the European Green Deal and the EU's climate ambitions will depend on strategic decision-making, innovative approaches, and resilient coalitions. The coming years will test the EU's commitment to its climate goals and its ability to lead the global fight against climate change.

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