The Right Gains in European Parliament Elections, Putting Climate Progress at Risk

ClimateElections European Union
The Right Gains in European Parliament Elections, Putting Climate Progress at Risk

Far-right parties scored big in European Parliament elections, shaking up the bloc and potentially putting some of its signature climate policies at risk.

Marine Le Pen’s ultranationalist party National Rally gained seats, prompting French President Emmanuel Macron to call for snap legislative elections. In Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats sunk all the way behind the AfD — a party “officially suspected of extremism” according to the courts (the party’s co-leader Tino Chrupalla is pictured above). A centrist coalition is likely to maintain control of the parliament, though it is an increasingly shaky and right-leaning bloc.

Europe’s broad rightward shift has been duly puzzled over for some time now, and the continent’s ambitious climate policies — along with immigration issues — are likely the most important collateral damage from that trend.

“[W]e could… see majorities in the next parliament in support of more economic, fiscal, and regulatory freedom for member states,” wrote analysts with the European Council on Foreign Relations in January. “The significant shift to the right in the new parliament will mean that an ‘anti-climate policy action’ coalition is likely to dominate. This would significantly undermine the EU’s Green Deal framework and the adoption and enforcement of common policies to meet the EU’s net zero targets.”

Though the European Parliament has passed a number of environmental policy measures that would help meet those targets in recent years, they tended to win those votes by slim margins. In the new Parliament, those margins have disappeared in a puff of wildfire smoke.

Europe’s overall greenhouse gas emissions have dropped relatively steadily for more than three decades now — by a total of 32.5% since 1990 by 2022. That’s a clear success story compared to most of the world, but the European Commission says the E.U.’s member states “need to significantly step up” their collective mitigation efforts to reach a targeted 55% reduction by 2030 and net-zero by mid-century.

With the election results in, it’s clear the continent is going in the wrong direction.

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