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FILE PHOTO: Fridays for Future presents their campaign for EU elections
German climate activist Luisa Neubauer presents the Fridays for Future campaign for the EU elections during a news conference in Berlin, Germany, on May 3. Image: Reuters/Lisi Niesner
environment

Europe's battered Green movement tries to salvage climate agenda

12 Comments
By Kate Abnett and Riham Alkousaa

Millions of young people took to the streets across Europe in 2019 demanding action to fight climate change, helping Green parties secure their best ever EU election results and giving them influence over climate policies Brussels has passed since.

That looks set to change. Polls suggest Greens will perform worse than any other political grouping in June's EU election, which will form the next 720-member European Parliament. They look set to lose nearly a third of their current 72 EU lawmakers.

"It was of course a great feeling in 2019. People all loved us and the climate was the number one topic," Green EU lawmaker Anna Cavazzini told Reuters. "That's a little different now, of course. Overall, I would say there is a bit of a social backlash against climate protection."

Instead of hordes of young supporters in the streets, some Green candidates running this year have reported physical attacks and vandalism on the campaign trail.

Fewer Greens in the next European Parliament will affect EU climate policy for the next five years, as the bloc's "Green Deal" moves into a politically sensitive phase in which the economic impact of Green goals will become more visible.

"The elections will be about the future of the Green Deal," said Bas Eickhout, the Dutch EU lawmaker co-leading the Greens into the EU election.

COMPETING CONCERNS

Analysts and EU lawmakers from across the political spectrum attribute the Greens' expected decline to factors ranging from voters' reaction to a cost of living crisis, anxiety over issues like migration - which has boosted support for far-right parties - and anger over unpopular moves by Green politicians in national governments.

"The big topics now are competitiveness, security, social issues, immigration, and these are topics on which the Greens struggle a little bit more," said Davide Ferrari, head of research at research platform EU Matrix.

Climate change has accelerated since the last EU election, pushing the world this year to cap its first 12-month spell of temperatures more than 1.5C above pre-industrial times. Polls show most European voters - around three-quarters - remain highly concerned.

But other worries have taken centre stage.

In an Ipsos poll of 26,000 Europeans published in March by Euronews, respondents ranked climate change as only the sixth priority issue for the EU to tackle - behind inflation, illegal immigration and unemployment.

In Germany, whose 25 Green members of the European Parliament far outnumber those of any other EU country, the party's role in government has also knocked their popularity.

A stuttering economy and unpopular policies including a draft plan to phase out fossil fuel boilers pushed German satisfaction with their government to a record low of 27% in January.

Approval ratings for Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck, Europe's most senior Green politician, almost halved between June 2022 and May 2023, a YouGov survey showed.

"The German economy is now entering difficult waters," said Stefan Marschall, a political scientist at the University of Duesseldorf.

"As soon as environmental policy is designed in concrete terms, then it becomes clear that this is something that also costs money ... that leads to people turning away," he added.

FIGHTING BACK

Polls suggest gains in next month's election for right-wing and far-right parties that could erode the next EU assembly's ability to pass ambitious new climate policies.

Major climate decisions for the next EU Parliament include a decision on the EU’s legally binding 2040 climate target. So far, the EU has stuck to a science-aligned 90% emissions cut proposal under pressure from the Greens.

The EU has already passed more than two dozen emissions-cutting policies into law, including renewable energy targets and a 2035 ban on new CO2-emitting cars.

Those policies can't be revoked, but many have a legal "review" scheduled in the next few years, which some EU officials suggest a more climate-skeptical parliament could use to add loopholes or undo parts of the laws, slowing Europe's Green transition.

With two and half weeks until EU citizens head to the polls, the Greens are highlighting what they see as the dangers posed by the far right.

Sybren Kooistra, who manages the EU Greens' election campaign strategy, said that in the last EU election, climate change was the top issue, but not any more.

"It's not working with the same fire and emotion as when we talk about freedom and the far right," Kooistra told Reuters. "This is more about fighting the far right."

Greens on the campaign trail today emphasize their platform includes social fairness and support for European industries to stay competitive, while also attacking the far right.

German climate activist Luisa Neubauer, a prominent figure in the Fridays For Future youth movement that held mass climate protests ahead of the 2019 election, said other parties were paying more attention to climate, but the Greens still set the bar.

"If the Green Party in the European Parliament compromises on climate, on environment, they lower the bar for everyone else," Neubauer said.

Speaking to Reuters during an afternoon of door-to-door campaigning in the eastern city of Dresden this month, lawmaker Cavazzini described the Greens as also the antidote to the far right.

"They hate everything we want. We also find everything they want to be terrible," she said.

© (Thomson Reuters 2024.

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.


12 Comments
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Is it possible to get articles on this site without a hard-left slant? The green movement is battered because years of screeching about the sky falling, exaggerated claims of catastrophe, and proposals and policies that inflict more harm than good, are wearing thin on a public whose costs of and restrictions on living are escalating.

All the while the people in charge making these rules are living high on the hog, immune to the damage their policies are causing while trying to egg on the doom-mongering and slandering anyone who opposes them as "far-right" - as if pointing out the obvious that solar and wind can't reliably replace nuclear or fossil-fuel power generation links someone to that nasty little Austrian from last century. Pathetic, and no wonder they're losing credibility fast.

-2 ( +7 / -9 )

The climate issue is burning more than ever. This issue must be addressed if we do not want to commit suicide. However, the advancements in electrical transportation and in solar energy provide some alleviation and some hope.

 

solar and wind can't reliably replace nuclear or fossil-fuel power generation

 Wind cannot, but solar can. Nuclear is good too. And we also have retention technology now. Fossil fuel is our nemesis.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

NBToday  02:21 pm JST

The climate issue is burning more than ever. This issue must be addressed if we do not want to commit suicide. However, the advancements in electrical transportation and in solar energy provide some alleviation and some hope.

 

solar and wind can't reliably replace nuclear or fossil-fuel power generation

 Wind cannot, but solar can. Nuclear is good too. And we also have retention technology now. Fossil fuel is our nemesis.

Aside from your admission that nuclear is good too, I'm afraid the facts are against you, and more people are coming to understand this. Hence the hit pieces appearing in the corporate and government media attempting to link people who question the net zero insanity to fascism. When they can't win an argument on facts, they go for name-calling and denouncement, a typically collectivist authoritarian tactic that only shows how weak they really are.

-2 ( +6 / -8 )

Wonder who the oil and gas companies and big landowners are funding. They have all the money. And subsidies. As they say, always follow the money.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

And subsidies. As they say, always follow the money.

Where do you think the subsidies come from? Mars? Nope. They're funded by the same taxpayers being screwed by the governments who hand over those subsidies.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

I'm afraid the facts are against you

What facts?

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Yes, you are right. Big land and big oil get big subsidies from the taxpayer because they influence the governments that hand them over. They won't want to see that diminished, will they? So, they will tend to fund parties and policies that keep the subsidies in place for doing the same as they have always done. Greens seem to provide a threat to that. Plus there is the even bigger problem of a threat to the trillion dollar a year global profits of oil and gas. They have very deep pockets to fund any opposition. And do. Hence, follow the money, as many are wont to say.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

This is not good.

This means whatever catastrophe they were warning the world before is coming now with certainty.

Anybody recalls the predictions/science projections?

When and what are coming ? Can't recall now because nevee seen anybody say themagain for a long time now

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Climate change has accelerated since the last EU election, pushing the world this year to cap its first 12-month spell of temperatures more than 1.5C above pre-industrial times. Polls show most European voters - around three-quarters - remain highly concerned.

So we already hit the lower limit they set. Ah it says more than so past the limit. What are suppose to happen now that we're past 1.5 C

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Yes, you are right. Big land and big oil get big subsidies from the taxpayer because they influence the governments that hand them over. They won't want to see that diminished, will they? So, they will tend to fund parties and policies that keep the subsidies in place for doing the same as they have always done. Greens seem to provide a threat to that. Plus there is the even bigger problem of a threat to the trillion dollar a year global profits of oil and gas. They have very deep pockets to fund any opposition. And do. Hence, follow the money, as many are wont to say.

You're partly right, in that the big industries you mentioned take an each-way bet by funding both sides to keep the subsidies coming. But the Greens are ideological purists, and are quite prepared to impoverish their countries to further their red-green watermelon agenda - with themselves in charge, of course and immune from the damage they wreak.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

ianToday  05:29 pm JST

This is not good. 

This means whatever catastrophe they were warning the world before is coming now with certainty.

Anybody recalls the predictions/science projections?

When and what are coming ? Can't recall now because nevee seen anybody say themagain for a long time now

They'll eventually be right, but the Sun will have to run out of its hydrogen fuel first. We'll be alright for a while yet.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

If people who call this "mother nature doing what she does" are so right about their beliefs, I wonder how their crystal ball sees say when it will end. Will few survive? Will it continue until we all die? The climatologists have made predictions that have all come to be and they say that human activity is the cause. Let's pretend (now, mother nature believers, I'm just saying let's pretend, okay?) that they are right. Would it hurt to try out their suggestions? It may at least slow down our doomsday. Exxon and others might suffer a little bit for a little while and if science is wrong, why we could go back to doing what humans do.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

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