European Parliament Elections; Environmental Priorities of the Main Political Groups

The European Parliament elections take place between June 4-9, with voting on different days in different countries. The Parliament’s role in European decision making is increasing over time and will expand further if the Lisbon Treaty comes into force.

Critical recent developments in environment policy-making, including the newly adopted climate and energy package, have shown the key role the European Parliament has in this policy field, building on a long history of active interest and numerous initiatives on environmental themes.

Some indication of the stances that may be taken in the new Parliament can be garnered from the manifestos of the various parties. This note offers an overview for the 3 major political groups of the European Parliament; the left-leaning PES, the centre-right coalition EPP-ED and the Green Party (VERTS/ALE). Each political group’s manifesto for the elections has been reviewed and the key environment components are highlighted below.

The PES’ manifesto includes numerous proposals linked to the environment including: advocating that the EU take the lead in international negotiations on climate change and push for a 30% emission reduction target for 2020; increasing EU support for developing countries to fight as well as adapt to climate change notably through massive technology transfer; pushing for a European Common Energy Policy based on sustainability, energy security and independence, diversity of energy sources; and putting forward a climate Directive extending existing climate-change linked targets and regulations to other areas of legislation not yet covered. The PES has also proposed to develop new cross-border offshore windfarm grids as part of a proposed European initiative expanding energy infrastructure.

The EPP-ED coalition’s manifesto also includes propositions directly linked to the environment. Notable suggestions include: pushing for more investment in R&D for clean technologies such as carbon capture and storage, hydrogen and methanol energy, biofuels, biogas and biomass; putting more emphasis on clean energy technologies such as nuclear energy in those States that favour it, the use of clean technology when using fossil fuels and the use of renewable wind, marine, solar and thermal energies; and developing further fiscal incentives for citizens and companies undertaking renovation works in the building sector and for the purchase of energy efficient vehicles and appliances.

The Green Party (VERTS/ALE), as can be expected, sets the environment as its key focus and the manifesto starts by stressing the need for a resource revolution to shift from our present course of over-exploitation and environmental destruction. Amongst the numerous environment-related suggestions the following are worth highlighting: the Greens want the EU to commit to greenhouse gas emissions reductions of 40% by 2020 and 80-95% by 2050, based on 1990 levels, in line with the current recommendations of the UN IPCC; placing much greater priority on energy efficiency at the EU level by setting a binding target to reduce energy consumption by 20% by 2020; calling for the creation of a European Renewables Community (ERENE) to support the long-term goal of 100% energy supplied from renewable sources; and calling for a target of creating five million green collar jobs over the coming five years. The Greens have also highlighted the deficiencies of the Common Fisheries Policy stating it is an exercise in self-destruction and calling for its complete overhaul. Furthermore, the Green Party has adopted a different stance to that of the EPP-ED on nuclear energy declaring that nuclear energy cannot be part of the solution to climate change.