EU elections litmus test for Europe climate action plan

The world’s most ambitious climate plan has become a major political liability. Public support for the European Union’s Green Deal, aimed at eliminating carbon emissions by 2050, is under threat as an energy crisis hits voters’ wallets. A flood of incentives for clean technologies unleashed by the US and China has also stoked concerns that Europe’s sticks-over-carrots approach will make it less competitive.
The extent of the damage will be made clear when citizens vote in parliamentary elections from June 6 to June 9.In their campaigns, leading mainstream candidates have shifted from framing the climate action as a way for Europe to lead globally to focusing on how they’ll protect domestic industries and limit the cost to households. Meanwhile, discontent over everything from boiler bans to sustainable farming directives has helped climate-skeptic right-wing parties gain support.
“Many people feel the democratic parties have failed to find credible solutions to their daily problems and they view the climate transition as a financial burden,” said Dirk Messner, president of Germany’s Environment Agency.
While polls show that a coalition of mainstream parties is forecast to retain a majority in the EU Parliament for its next five-year term, the gravity is shifting to the right. Far-right groups are set to increase their number of seats.
The challenge for the next European Commission, which will be formed after the vote, and the 27 member states, will be to find more funding for the Green Deal even as other pressures mount. Many member states want to boost defence spending amid a worsening geopolitical environment following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
It’s a dilemma with no easy solution. Economic growth is sluggish, inflation is sticky and government budgets are strained just as the EU approaches the hardest stretch of its net-zero campaign. The bloc had barely started including the agriculture sector in its green regulations when it was forced to soften the policies after farmers blocked highways and dumped manure in the streets.
In 2027, it’s set to launch a new carbon market to cut pollution from heating and road transport fuels – a move that will impact consumers. By 2035, all new passenger cars will need to be emissions-free, effectively putting an end to the internal combustion engine. “There’s a perfect storm brewing,” said Simone Tagliapietra, senior researcher at the Bruegel think tank in Brussels. Those measures will hit consumers just as the EU reduces green grants.
The backlash has overshadowed the achievements of the Green Deal. The EU managed to overcome national differences and adopt a massive package of measures to reach a tougher emissions reduction goal of least 55% by 2030 from 1990 levels. Pollution dropped 32.5% from 1990 to 2022, even as the economy grew by 67%. Even so, the bloc will need to accelerate its deployment of renewable energy, climate-friendly infrastructure and clean technologies to meet its targets. By the EU’s own estimates, the continent needs to invest about Rs 1.5 trillion per year in its energy and transport systems to reach net zero.


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