EU Policy. How green are parties' manifestos vying in the European election?

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Chris Carlson / AP Copyright Chris Carlson/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Chris Carlson/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
By Marta PachecoRobert Hodgson
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Some political forces present concrete pledges while others offer general commitments to preserve the environment, keep up with the energy transition and tackle chemical and plastic pollution.


European environmental legislation has become a divisive issue in recent months, with a serious of angry protests by farmers only the most visible sign of a backlash against the European Green Deal, the flagship policy agenda of the European Commission under president Ursula von der Leyen. There are signs of a widening division not only between Greens and other parties, but also in the traditional centre ground, with the two largest groups in the European Parliament – the centre-right European People’s Party and the Socialists & Democrats – taking opposing positions on a number of key files, not least the Nature Restoration Law.

With lawmakers due to go into full-on campaign mode after the last plenary session of the current cycle next week, the European Parliament released results of an EU-wide opinion poll of 26,000 citizens which suggests 71% would be likely to vote in the elections if they were held the following week. If that figure is reflected in real turnout on 6-9 June, it would be a dramatic uptick on participation of 43% in 2014, and 51% at the last ballot in 2019.

In terms of issues that EU citizens think “should be discussed as a matter of priority” going into the elections, the top four positions were poverty and social exclusion, health, jobs, and defence and security, cited by 31-33% of respondents, followed by climate action (27%). Among the youngest voters, under 25 years, climate came top on 33%. Farming and agriculture came in ninth on 23%.

But the survey leaves us in the dark on green policy beyond climate action: no questions were posed, for example, on nature restoration or biodiversity – the word ‘environment’ appears only twice in the 220-page report, and ‘Green Deal’ is mentioned only once. The main political groups give varying levels of prominence to these topics in their election manifestos. While there is some common ground – all agree that some sort of climate action is necessary – there is huge variation in level of detail and concrete commitments.

Unsurprisingly, the Greens have put climate and environmental policy front and centre among their commitments for the next parliamentary term.

Energy, air, water

The Greens have pledged to transform the EU’s energy system — to rely 100% on solar, water, wind and geothermal — and phase out fossil energy by 2040, starting with coal by 2030.

“The EU needs a clear plan for the total phaseout of fossil gas and oil as early as 2035 and no later than 2040,” read the Green’s political manifesto.

Led by lawmakers Terry Reintke (Germany) and Bas Eickhout (the Netherlands), the Greens are also vowing to support the development of cheap electric transport and charging infrastructure, pledging to have air quality in the EU meeting World Health Organization guidelines by 2030. The European People’s Party (EPP), led by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (Germany), also hails a strategy to curb air pollution and it is the only political force pledging to ramp-up global hydrogen production, while the Greens urge caution saying such fuel comes with “higher risks and costs for both consumers and industry” and should be “reserved for backup” in the power system.

On biodiversity, the Greens insist that from 2026, 10% of the EU budget must be spent on biodiversity objectives and they pledge to put forward a Seas and Ocean Law and to create a European Natural Disaster Fund, to strengthen climate adaptation.

Both the Greens and The Left are calling on the prohibition of the privatisation of water resources, while the Socialists and the EPP refer to “water protection and management” and the intention to “implement a strategy for water”, respectively.

The Left, led by MEP Walter Baier (Austria), wants to increase the EU’s target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from 55% to 65% by 2030 and bring forward the date for the climate neutrality target from 2050 to 2035. Lawmakers in the Left want to dismantle 'the SUV economy' through laws that ensure carbon-neutral and road user-friendly car production. They are calling to ban private flights, prioritise trains for journeys under two and a half hours and to revive night trains.

The EPP seeks the completion and development of the new Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) infrastructures, deemed crucial for structuring the European territory and enhancing the efficiency of the European Single Market. It vows to intensify research in the fields of energy, notably nuclear fusion and to establish a CO2 circular economy throughout Europe.


On food systems, The Left wants to establish an agro-ecological policy model for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) based on an environmentally sustainable agriculture, ensuring fair incomes for farmers. The Greens pledge to fight for a 50% reduction in pesticide use by 2030, while the Socialists want to “improve food production by embracing sustainable farming and fishing” and vow to reduce the use of pesticides based on national best practices, improve soil management, and protect biodiversity.

“The EU needs to strengthen the plant-based protein sector and encourage a transition towards more plant-based diets, building on policy proposals including the Plant-Based Treaty,” read the Green’s political manifesto.

Left-wing lawmakers are set to put forward a European Basic Income law that obliges EU countries to “legally guarantee everyone a minimum income that covers the basic needs for a decent life”, including, among others, food, housing and energy.

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE) wants to reform the CAP to “lift bureaucratic burdens” and to introduce new rules for genetically-engineered crops to increase productivity and reduce the volume of pesticides used. Liberals also vow to encourage food donations to “avoid food waste”.

"By 2040, the EU might lose an additional 6.4 million farms, a staggering decrease of over 60% as compared to 2016,” warned the EPP’s manifesto, noting farmers need to have "a future and stand for dialogue instead of top-down approaches”.

Backing investments

Led by Luxembourg’s European Commissioner Nicolas Schmit, the Socialists have centred their campaign on general pledges backing investments for the green transition, such as in the so-called Renovation Wave, meant to make buildings across Europe more energy efficient. These pledges are aligned with those from the EPP, wanting to encourage investments to integrate further the European electricity and gas market, energy efficiency and net-zero industrial projects, including clean technologies.


The same goes for ALDE, which defends investments in “all types of renewables”, including nuclear power, “complemented by carbon removal, capture and storage technologies”.

“We must ensure that the EU electricity interconnection target of at least 15% is reached by 2030,” read ALDE’s manifesto. It wants to expand the scope of the European Emissions Trading System (ETS) to cover all remaining carbon-polluting sectors and to enable decarbonisation of all types of transport.

The Socialists and the EPP in Parliament, along with ALDE, with Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann (Germany) as the lead candidate, want to “increase public and private collaboration and investments” in grid capacity and storage and accelerate energy efficiency. They want to “simplify, shorten, and speed up” the digitalisation of licensing and permitting procedures of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

Plastic & chemical pollution, raw materials

Socialists make a reference to tackling plastic and chemical pollution, notably PFAS, a pledge shared by the EPP, which promises to “strengthen the European waste reduction strategy and the European plastics strategy”.

The Greens, too, have promised to increase the scope of existing taxes on plastics and hinted at applying the “polluter-pays-principle” across all sectors.


“We will fight for a toxic-free Europe by 2030 by phasing out the use of the most harmful chemicals through a stronger chemicals law,” read the Green’s manifesto, noting the intention of fighting for a 50% reduction in pesticide use by the same year.

Referring to the importance of critical raw materials, EPP lawmakers want to “promote a common European resource strategy, identifying the existing resources worldwide”. ALDE is the only political force referring to the development of a European strategy for the bioeconomy, including the sustainable use of biomass.

The Left insists the EU "must not assign the accession countries the role of suppliers of cheap raw materials” as it is currently doing, the party argues. As for the Greens, they defend “remodelled trade deals” to protect social rights, the environment and climate when seeking for critical raw materials for the EU green transition.

“We will push to improve bilateral trade and investment agreements with binding and sanctionable sustainability provisions. Specifically, the Paris Agreement, the Kunming-Montreal biodiversity agreement, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the ILO core conventions,” read the Green’s manifesto. 

Without presenting an official manifesto, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) party has vowed to protect the environment at “a cost we can afford” with “sensible and sustainable” measures that won’t place “costly burdens” on businesses and EU countries. Conservative lawmakers, who have not nominated a candidate lead, pledge to lower emissions, keep the air clean, protect wildlife, fishermen and the ocean.

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