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Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews. 

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Will The Far Right Upsurge Slow Europe’s Energy Transition Efforts? 

  • Fears have emerged that the gains of the far right in the EU Parliament elections last weekend are dooming the EU’s climate action and efforts.
  • The center and center-right parties of the Group of the European People’s Party will continue to be the largest group in the 720-seat EU Parliament.
  • Passed EU legislation that has moved to the implementation phases will be very difficult to undo, analysts say.
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The rise of the far-right populist parties in the EU elections was partly the result of the cost-of-living crisis and high energy bills, which most EU voters have had to go through over the past two years.

Fears have emerged that the gains of the far right in the EU Parliament elections last weekend – and the loss of seats for the Greens – are dooming the EU’s climate action and efforts.   

This is not necessarily the case.

The center and center-right parties of the Group of the European People’s Party will continue to be the largest group in the 720-seat EU Parliament. The left-leaning groups have also retained most seats. The Greens were the big losers in the elections, also because of the “greenlash” from voters who punished environmentalists for the high costs of going green.

Moreover, the 2024 election campaign was very different from 2019. This year, energy security and the cost of energy for households clearly trumped any debate about “urgent climate action to stop the climate crisis,” in the wake of the 2022 energy crisis in Europe, which is still being felt in many EU member states. 

Passed EU legislation that has moved to the implementation phases will be very difficult to undo, analysts say. The parties that have backed the European Green Deal and other EU legislative efforts toward net zero will continue to hold a majority in the new EU Parliament. The populist and far-right parties will have more seats, but they will not be able to overturn major policy directions, experts argue.

Related: U.S. Crude Production Growth Challenges OPEC+ Control Over Prices

Still, some new measures could be stalled and debated for longer, and new legislation could be more difficult to pass, according to politicians and analysts.

“All new policies will be harder to pass. But backsliding is very unlikely,” Krzysztof Bolesta, Poland’s secretary of state for climate, told Reuters early this week.

Most passed legislation is likely to stay.

But the far-right parties are expected to attack the EU’s ban on the sale of new gasoline and diesel cars from 2035. As part of the efforts to slash emissions from the transportation sector, the EU approved in 2023 legislation saying that from 2035, all new cars that come on the market cannot emit any carbon dioxide (CO2), effectively banning the sale of new cars with internal combustion engines. This measure is set for review in 2026.

“Some expression of continuity with past policies will remain, both because the historical EPP-S&D balance remains relatively strong, and also because [current European Commission president Ursula] Von Der Leyen will probably continue heading the commission,” Federica Genovese, Professor of political science and international relations at the University of Oxford, told Carbon Brief.

“However, we should expect a rhetorical downscaling of the relevance of climate action,” Genovese added.

“Whether this also means a substantive downscaling of the Green Deal depends on whether the EU will be looking at climate as a social redistributive agenda or a geopolitical security one.”

According to Simone Tagliapietra, senior fellow at the Brussels-based economic think tank Bruegel, Europe avoided a scenario in which the far right would have gained so many seats to be in a position to negotiate a dismantling of the European Green Deal.

“There were fears it could be dismantled in a scenario of surging far-right parties. But the surge didn’t happen: the pro-European centre has retained the majority of seats in the European Parliament, indicating that Europe is not going to reverse course on the green transition,” Tagliapietra wrote in an analysis after the elections.

The EU must now look to avoid procrastination at the EU Parliament and inaction by national governments, he added.

“As the Green Deal moves into its implementation phase after five years of policy design and law-making, getting things done at national level is what will really make or break Europe’s green ambitions.” 

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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