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Climate Policy Clash: EU Green Deal Meets Political Pushback


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The European Union’s Green Deal, aimed at eliminating carbon emissions by 2050, faces dwindling public support as an energy crisis impacts voters’ wallets and competing global incentives challenge Europe’s approach. This shift in sentiment will be tested in the upcoming parliamentary elections from June 6 to June 9, where voters’ concerns about affordability and economic competitiveness take center stage.

Shifting Political Landscape

Leading candidates in the parliamentary elections have moved from promoting climate action as a global leadership opportunity for Europe to emphasizing the protection of domestic industries and household budgets. This shift comes amid growing discontent over policies such as boiler bans and sustainable farming directives, which have fueled support for climate-skeptic right-wing parties.

“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 at a time when their finances are already stretched,” said Dirk Messner, president of Germany’s Environment Agency.

Impact on Green Deal Implementation

A survey by the Institute for European Environmental Policy released in May indicated that 67% of experts believe the elections will negatively impact the implementation of climate reforms. Although most believe the Green Deal’s objectives will be legislated, they expect these policies to be weakened or constrained.

The challenge for the next European Commission and the 27 member states will be securing more funding for the Green Deal amidst other mounting pressures, such as increased defense spending due to geopolitical tensions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Economic growth is sluggish, inflation remains high, and government budgets are strained, complicating the EU’s path to net-zero emissions.

Legislative and Financial Hurdles

The EU’s ambitious plans include launching a new carbon market in 2027 to reduce pollution from heating and road transport fuels, and by 2035, requiring all new passenger cars to be emissions-free. However, these measures will directly impact consumers, potentially fueling further political backlash.

“There’s a perfect storm brewing,” said Simone Tagliapietra, a senior researcher at the Bruegel think tank in Brussels. He noted that these measures would hit consumers just as the EU reduces green grants, potentially strengthening the narrative of far-right parties blaming Brussels for financial hardships.

Achievements and Future Challenges

Despite the backlash, the EU has made significant progress with its Green Deal, adopting measures to achieve a tougher emissions reduction goal of at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. Pollution has already dropped 32.5% from 1990 to 2022, even as the economy grew by 67%. However, the bloc must accelerate the deployment of renewable energy, climate-friendly infrastructure, and clean technologies to meet its targets.

The continent needs to invest about €1.5 trillion annually in its energy and transport systems to reach net zero, with most funding expected from private finance. This marks a substantial increase from the €863 billion spent annually on decarbonizing sectors between 2011 and 2020. The current primary public funding source for the green transition, a €750 billion post-pandemic recovery program, is nearing its end, and member states are divided over new financing tools, such as issuing joint debt.

Political and Social Considerations

The implementation phase of the Green Deal brings significant competitiveness concerns, according to Chiara Di Mambro, head of decarbonization policy at the Italian climate change think tank Ecco. The elections will act as a reality check for the Green Deal, reflecting the complex balance between achieving climate goals and addressing immediate economic and social pressures.

The Green Deal’s success hinges on member states making difficult choices, and there is concern that political shifts could slow down or dilute agreed-upon measures. Some governments may use a rightward tilt in the new parliament to water down existing regulations, such as the new carbon market or car emissions rules.

Upcoming elections

The upcoming elections will be crucial in determining the future of the EU’s Green Deal. While the Green Deal remains one of the most ambitious legislative efforts by the EU, its success will depend on continued commitment and difficult decision-making by member states and elected officials. As Eleonore Caroit, vice president of the French National Assembly’s foreign affairs committee, stated, the Green Deal “must remain a top priority” to ensure Europe meets its climate goals amidst the challenging economic and political landscape.

Credits: Mr. Waseem Shahzad Qadri, Editor also contribute this article

News Desk, where most of the News Item edit for THE THINK TANK JOURNAL

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