From Green Deal to Election Realities: The Environmental Agenda in the 2024 EU Elections

Photo by European Parliament “State of the EU: Ukraine, Green Deal, Economy, China, Artificial Intelligence”/CC BY 2.0

By Hana Tuzickova
As the EU elections approach, there is no doubt that environmental issues are once again becoming increasingly important to voters. That said, there is also considerable pushback, most notably among conservative parties, which could affect how far-reaching any sustainability measure, like the Green New Deal, ends up being. The next round of voting has therefore the potential to make or break EU environmental policies, and those casting ballots need to be aware of what is at stake over the coming years and decades.

As we are closely approaching the EU parliamentary elections, already known and newly arising questions– from migration and the security of the EU, all the way up to concerns regarding the AI – are becoming increasingly visible in the EU policy scheme . For example, another important emphasis has been placed on the Green Deal. Among the key goals formulated in the plan, there is now a strong conviction that the environmental agenda is gaining strength and becoming a priority in policy for the member countries and its citizens once again. As one would expect, the political actors try to adapt their political aims and agendas to this. Among these issues, as researchers also suggest, there might be changes regarding the plan post-elections, as the far-right, well known for opposing environmental policies, might be able to acquire more seats and therefore gain greater influence on shaping the future of environmental legislation.

The Green Deal’s impact on electoral agendas
The Green Deal, approved in 2020, has set ambitious policies to solve a variety of environmental problems. Some of the main objectives were reaching “clean energy” by 2050, supporting sustainable industries and buildings, the “farm to fork” strategy, pollution reduction, sustainable transportation, biodiversity preservation, and sustainable finance, all with the end goal of reaching climate neutrality by 2050. Even if this was accepted by all of the EU leaders, it was widely criticized and disagreed with from the very start. While some countries aimed for the goals to be changed completely, others were considering them too fast. Among the main critics were countries such as Poland, Czechia, Bulgaria, and Romania, with concerns regarding mainly their dependence on coal, competitiveness of markets, or carbon pricing. Moreover, countries that had implemented sustainable policies before the deal were concerned about the Just Transition Fund (perceived as financial help for countries with gaps in the sustainable schemes) and essentially evaluated it as unfair. Self evidently, far right parties were in opposition as well. In contrast, though, the deal was largely accepted by the public, with only about 10-15% of the population against it. Since then, however, a lot of things have changed. First and foremost, various problems have arisen, starting with the issues that occurred throughout the implementation of the deal itself and ending with the consequences of the COVID pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war, resulting in the increasing cost of energy and living. Due to this, it is no surprise that public opinion has swiftly changed.

The significance of environmental issues for the upcoming 2024 EU elections
That said, at present, there is an exceptional role for the next EU elections, as environmental issues receive more and more attention and form the basis of voter priorities. Although environmentally sustainable policies still might have a firmly established voter base, they also have an opposing one. Moreover, the ongoing changes provoke further and further right-wing political agendas taking power in individual EU member states. These parties pose a great threat to the EU’s Green Deal, as they use environmentally relevant policy as an antagonist in their fight against EU establishments by using arguments for security and national sovereignty. Additionally, as centrist political parties seek options to address the threat to their electorate, they might start reconsidering their support for the Green Deal. Therefore, the importance of policies concerning the environment in the elections is relevant, and they concern not only far-right and centrist political formations but also all other actors in the EU, as the future of the Union’s environmental climate policy is at stake. Although it is necessary to acknowledge that all EU policymakers need to take a position and – for several different reasons – some may prioritize economic growth while others may focus on sustainability.

Photo by Ivan Radic “Sign with text ‘NO to green new deal’ left on a car’s open fuel door”/CC BY 2.0.

Possible changes to the Green Deal post elections
With probable leadership changes and ever fluid policies, we might need to review our climate policy. While the ultimate goal of climate neutrality in 2050 remains unchanged as of now, the means by which it will be achieved may vary. Besides, the results of the elections will determine up to which point environmental policy will be followed, also having an impact on EU status as an actor in global climate change issues.

Our future is in our hands
The future of the Green Deal and broader environmental goals remains in slight uncertainty. The political landscape is set soon to determine how much political climate action could vary, as the climate targets set by the EU are at risk of defeat due to the attraction of right-wing parties. Yet, even though the public might perceive the Green Deal as far from perfect, it is crucial to remain committed to environmentally sustainable actions, regardless of the results. Voters should think (twice) before they make their choice about environmental effects in the medium term, as it is important to keep focusing on fostering a strong environmental vision that has at stake the well-being of both current and future generations.
That brings us to the final question, which is: What will be the policy impacts of Our election decisions over the long term, and what future will those decisions offer to our children? These are important questions that must be considered. But for now, all we can do is wait and see how it all unfolds—and also, arguably most importantly, going to vote when the time is up.

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