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Tim Mohin: What the EU Elections Mean for Sustainability

Tim Mohin: What the EU Elections Mean for Sustainability

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Over the last few years, Europe’s “green deal” produced a plethora of sustainability policies. It seemed like every week, we reported on a new, far-reaching, world-leading sustainability regulation. Now that the EU elections have produced an anticipated rightward swing, will these policies be rolled back or stalled?

While the Greens lost seats, the political center held – meaning that it’s very unlikely the EU Parliament will seek to roll back the sustainability rules already passed. It’s equally unlikely that they will introduce a raft of new ESG policies. In other words, Europe will now shift its focus from creating new laws to implementing the existing Green Deal rules. Bas Eickhout, head of the European Parliament’s Greens lawmaker group, said, “I don’t think that we’ll be rolling back on (climate) policies. But I do think that it will be more complicated to get new policies off the ground.” 

Source: Statista

Dubbed the “greenlash,” the election confirmed the anticipated lurch to the right. The Greens lost more than a quarter of their seats while far-right groups won big, especially in Germany, France, and Italy. They now make up almost a quarter of all seats. But that doesn’t tell the full story. Greens actually gained seats in some Nordic countries, and the far-right groups that got voted in are made up of such a broad field that it is unlikely they will be able to unite under a single powerful voting bloc.  

Although most green policies approved in the previous Parliament should be safe, there are two at risk: The goal to reach 90% emissions reductions by 2040 now looks in jeopardy as it still needs to be approved by the EU Parliament and member states. Plus, the 2035 ban on new petrol and diesel cars, which conservative Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, called “an ideological folly, which absolutely must be corrected,” could well be halted or weakened when it goes up for review in 2026.

Widespread Implications

Kenzo Tribouillard/Agence France-Presse

As the world’s sustainability standard bearer for the last five years, a slowdown in EU policy could have global implications. Without the EU setting a strong example, other nations may not feel the pressure to keep pace, leading to increased environmental impacts worldwide. 

The rightward shift has also empowered conservatives in Europe like Italian Prime Minister Meloni, who is reversing the country’s solar rollout, saying it is a “threat to our food sovereignty” – a claim denied by farmers and energy experts. In France, the election results prompted President Emmanuel Macron to call a snap election, sparking worries that right-wing leader Marine Le Pen will seize power and make good on her pledge to halt wind energy subsidies and even tear down existing turbines.

Related Article: Tim Mohin: New Female Leaders Favor Climate Action

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