Perspectives

Climate Crisis on the Ballot: How the EU Elections Shape Our Planet’s Future


Dagmara Franczak
May 15, 2024 / 6 min read

The upcoming European Parliamentary elections in June 2024 signal a critical moment for the European Union (EU), with potential shifts towards right-wing and Eurosceptic parties threatening to reshape its political landscape. This anticipated change could lead to decreased regulation as the focus shifts away from progressive, pan-European initiatives, potentially hindering legislative efforts for the next five years, which can impact the future of the EU Green Deal, amongst other topics.  

 The European Union must invest around 1.5 trillion euros annually between 2031 and 2040 to meet its reduction targets and cut emissions by 90% by 2040 compared to 1990. Although investment costs are high, they are much lower than taking no action in the face of the increasingly visible effects of global warming. The EU isn’t prepared for climate change and risks catastrophic losses over the coming decades, according to the European Environment Agency in its first report on climate change risks. 

 Despite the EU Commission’s continued commitment to climate action and new initiatives addressing climate change, the post-election speed and ambition of progress seem uncertain considering the absence of additional emphasis on the Green Deal and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues in most political manifestos of EU political parties and the shift to the political right. 

In addition, upcoming elections in the United States in November are also expected to impact the EU and global geopolitical environment. In the event of a Biden victory, we can expect a more pro-climate U.S. presidency, whereas should there be a second Trump presidency, we can expect a stated intention to hollow out the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). This could also create uncertainties for EU climate action.  

What Do Political Manifestos Tell Us About the Future of Climate Policies?
The learnings of the first EU climate risk assessment are even more important in light of the upcoming EU parliamentary elections with various European political parties releasing their political manifestos. While the documents are non-binding, they indicate priority topics and potential future policy direction. 

The European People’s Party (EPP), the Party of European Socialists (PES), and the Greens all underscore their commitment to the EU Green Deal, albeit with varying degrees of emphasis. The EPP, while not prescribing specific targets, adamantly opposes any “ban policy,” such as a potential combustion engine ban. The Greens advocate for an accelerated timeline, proposing to advance the EU’s net-zero goal to a decade earlier than the established 2050 target. Meanwhile, the PES places a strong emphasis on social policies and workers’ rights as integral components of the green transition. 

In contrast, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE) focuses on the implementation of existing energy and climate regulations to meet EU targets, without explicit reference to the EU Green Deal. However, their draft manifesto advocates for an expansion of the European Emissions Trading System (ETS) to encompass all remaining carbon-polluting sectors. 

These varying stances underscore the complexity of climate policy within the European political landscape, highlighting divergent approaches and priorities among key parties as the elections loom. 

What About EU Commission Initiatives on Climate?
As the current legislative mandate comes to an end, the EU Commission and Parliament aim to wrap up the ongoing work and prepare for the EU elections. The Commission is set to publish additional initiatives in the next months. Some of them are a direct follow-up to announcements made by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during the 2024 State of the European Union (SOTEU) and to the EU Commission’s 2024 work program 

The EU Commission has already announced a number of upcoming initiatives on climate and sustainability, including a climate target plan for 2040, Communication on the clean transition dialogues, Communication on industrial carbon management, and new initiatives boosting European industrial leadership in advanced materials, which signals a more ambitious climate agenda on top of the existing EU Green Deal and continued focus on implementation of already adopted policies.  

EU member states urge the European Commission, as outlined in a draft document from the Belgian presidency of the Council of the EU, to prioritize leveraging the green transition to enhance European industrial leadership. Suggestions include the introduction of new legislation addressing pollution, pesticide use, and other environmental concerns. The proposed legislation includes a “Blue Deal on water resilience,” a “Circular Economy Act” and a revamped sustainable pesticides law, along with a push for the revision of REACH, the EU’s chemicals regulation, and the potential phase-out of toxic PFAS substances. Additionally, the document, which is to be adopted at a meeting of environment ministers on June 17, emphasizes the necessity of increased investment in sustainable finance to support the goals of the Green Deal, advocating for initiatives such as establishing an EU funding strategy for a just transition and eliminating environmentally harmful subsidies, particularly those related to fossil fuels. Recently, former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta presented a comprehensive, high-level report on strengthening the EU Single Market, where he presented the view that the “fair, green, and digital transition” has the potential to spark the emergence of a truly European single market.   

What Does This Mean for You?
Despite the uncertainty around the speed and ambition of EU climate policies, we can expect a shift towards the development of sectoral rules as well as the implementation of the already adopted legal framework. With key legislation such as the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation and the Right to Repair Directive on the horizon, manufacturers are bracing for significant impacts, such as product-related and organizational changes that would be required to ensure compliance with the regulations. 

These rules will have a clear impact on manufacturers, importers, distributors, retailers, and sellers, impacting a diverse array of products, spanning beyond consumer goods to encompass sectors such as transport, digital technologies, or textiles, to name only a few. At Trilligent, we can help you navigate the complex EU regulatory environment and make a change in the way your commitment to sustainability is perceived. Our services include strategic advisory, communications, policy, and political intelligence, as well as advocacy and stakeholder management, to name a few. Stay ahead of the curve and be prepared for what’s coming with the big elections of 2024. 

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