Green parties across the European Union have made dramatic gains, holding off challenges from the populist far-right and potentially shaking up Brussels to boost environmental protections.
Ahead of the May 23-26 elections, analysts had feared a populist wave would change the makeup of the European Commission and ditch commitments to the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
Now, EU citizens can look forward to Brussels increasing its commitment to renewable energy projects and clamping down on Europe’s ongoing overuse of coal.
The German Greens doubled their vote to become the second-largest German party in the European Parliament after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU.
The populist AfD disappointed, returning just four MEPs.
In Ireland, the Greens are set to finish equal second. The Greens came second in Finland and they were third in Luxembourg, France and Belgium.
In France, the Green vote was up from 9 per cent in 2014 to 13 per cent, far ahead of the two traditional parties, the centre-right Republicans and the Socialists.
“We are witnessing a green European wave tonight that we are part of,” Yannick Jadot, the Green leader, told supporters. “The French sent us a clear message: they want ecology to be at the heart of our lives.”
There were strong showings in Austria, the Netherlands and UK, where the Green Party came ahead of the ruling Conservatives.
When combined with the pro-EU Liberal Democrat votes, the equally pro-remain Greens equalled the vote share of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, which grabbed all the headlines.
Overall Green parties have gained around 20 seats to become the fourth biggest bloc in the parliament.
With around 70 MEPs, the Greens will have similar numbers in the 751-seat assembly as the populists led by Italy’s deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini. The Greens, however, will not be shunned by the centrist parties.
“This was a great outcome for us – but we now also have a great responsibility, because voters have given us their trust,” said Dutch Green MEP Bas Eickhout.
“Our voters, especially the younger generation, for many of whom we are now their first choice, are deeply concerned about the climate crisis, and they are pro-European – but they feel the EU is not delivering. They want us to change the course of Europe.
“We will need to see much more serious climate action, a real change of attitude: a price on carbon dioxide, properly tackling aviation, the greening of agriculture,” added Eickhout.
Manfred Weber of the CDU, the European People’s party’s commission president hopeful, said the Greens were now “a possible partner. We should sit down together and draft a mandate for the next five years”.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change reported in October last year that warming was currently on track towards a rise of between 3°C or 4°C, which would prove catastrophic.
Green parties prospered across the continent. Picture credit: Energy Reporters
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