By Anders Lorenzen
The Greens in the European Parliament are in jubilant mood as they last month experienced one of their best elections ever, increasing their seats of MEP’s from 51 to 70 in the 751 seat assembly. The Greens will have the same number of seats as the far right euro-sceptic grouping which involves parties such as Italy’s Five Star Movement and Britain’s Brexit Party.
The Greens say their surge is because more people are worried about the impact of climate change and the grouping want to use their increased representation to push for more ambitious policies to tackle the climate crisis. Others argue that what we’re witnessing is simply the rise of populism, with stronger support for parties on the extreme left and right as well as votes against ‘the establishment’.
The centre-left and the centre-right blocks are paying for the success of the far right and left parties as theirs was already fragile. The centre-right pro-European block, the European People’s Party, was the night’s biggest loser with the loss of 43 seats, with the Social Democrat block losing 38 seats. The big surprise of the night was the Liberal Democrat block which gained 38 seats, making it the third biggest block (previously 4th).
How will this affect action on climate change? Overall the results are positive for environmentalists with a surge in the Greens and Liberal Democrats who generally have a stronger green focus than for example the Social Democrats and the European People’s Party. But while the Greens have strengthened their position in the parliament, it may not be sufficient to force through green policies.
One policy which could now be pushed over the finishing line however, is the EU becoming carbon neutral by 2050, something the European Commission wants to happen. It would need to be approved by the parliament but with the influx of Greens and Liberal Democrats, it has a higher chance of succeeding than before the election.
The EU already has quite ambitious targets on both emission reductions and renewable energy generation, however, in the absence of the US leading on climate many believe the EU should be even more ambitious.