The 2019 European Parliament elections revealed surprising results after support for the Green parties swept across Europe in unprecedented numbers.
The elections saw two of the largest groups, the centre-right and socialist-democrats, lose votes in favour of environmentalist, liberal and far-right groups. The change could especially be seen in Germany where Angela Merkel’s Christian-Democrats may have taken first place, but the Alliance90/The Greens followed close behind after nearly doubling their votes. The Greens also found success in Finland where they gained second place, while rising to third place in both France and Luxembourg.
Britain’s Green Party also ascended the ranks where they overcame the Conservative party and reached fourth place. The number of Green MEPs more than doubled – from three to seven – seeing the likes of Magid Magid, the former British-Somali Mayor of Sheffield who grew to prominence as Yorkshire’s youngest ever mayor, elected to the European Parliament.
The increase in vote share can be attributed to the priorities shifting towards pro-EU and green-friendly policies. As global temperatures reach devastating levels, the discourse surrounding climate action is calling for urgency. The so-called ‘Green Wave’ is spreading across Europe with teenagers – like activist Greta Thunberg – actively getting involved through school strikes and large groups like the UK’s Extinction Rebellion seizing national attention. With the Greens taking fourth place in European Parliament, many are hoping that this is the push needed to achieve real climate action.
The European Union have already called for key targets to be reached by 2030 including a 40% cut to greenhouse gas emissions, 32% share for renewable energy and a 32.5% improvement in energy efficiency. Yet studies have shown that, without far-reaching changes, global warming will continue to escalate with precarious global implications.
Will the Green party rise to the challenge? More importantly, now that so many Europeans have pointed out that concern for the environment is a priority for them, will the larger political families also enforce sustainability policies as a priority across the continent?
The EPP won most seats in the 2019 European Parliament and thus remains the most influential political family in Europe. It led a campaign focused on listening tours thus demonstrating its willingness to adapt according to Europeans’ needs.
French president’s Macron has made his commitment to sustainability policies very well known too, despite political costs after his efforts for cleaner (and currently more expensive) energy led to higher fossil fuel prices and triggered the yellow vest protests.
Politically, it is highly likely that Europe will indeed see a positive turn towards more urgent action against climate change. The UK drafted its own Environment Act in December 2018, though meanwhile, it is so far failing to fulfil 14 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals it had committed to within the United Nations framework. As the UK has expressed its intention to leave the EU, with the deadline extended to October 31, we may see some positive competition between the UK and EU on who spearheads the fight against climate change.