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January 25, 2024

Editor’s note: how a ‘sharp right turn’ could impact EU lawmaking

European parliament building flags
The upcoming EU parliament elections could see gains for populist rightwing parties and losses for centre-left and green parties, which may have significant consequences for EU policymaking (Photo: NakNakNak/Pixabay)

The latest edition of our Sustainable Views newsletter

Dear reader,

The European parliament elections, scheduled for June, will see a major shift to the right in many EU countries, with gains for populist radical rightwing parties and losses for centre-left and green parties, according to a forecast published yesterday by the European Council on Foreign Relations. 

This “sharp right turn” may have significant consequences for EU policymaking, with the expected new political majority likely to oppose ambitious EU action to tackle climate change, says the think-tank. 

The forecast casts doubt on the future ability of the EU institutions to pass the policies needed to meet the ambitions of the EU Green Deal, and cites the controversial Nature Restoration Law as the type of bill that would fail to make it through the legislative procedure if populist rightwing parties make significant advances this spring. 

Policies are hugely important in advancing climate action and sending the right signals to businesses and investors, as Ryan Jude, cabinet member for climate, ecology and culture at Westminster City Council and a member of the Labour climate and environment forum advisory group, writes in today’s comment piece. But despite what happens in the European elections, signals from the outside world suggest climate change is not about to fall off the agenda.

For a start, there is the increasingly widespread and destructive real world evidence of climate change and its impacts on lives and livelihoods, and for many experts there is now simply too much momentum behind the energy transition for it to come to a grinding halt. 

A survey published this week by law firm Clifford Chance forecasts that the agreements made at COP28 in Dubai last December will “accelerate the phase-out of fossil fuels” in 2024. It also cites ESG disputes as the top litigation risk in 2024, with 72 per cent of the survey’s respondents seeing climate change as a risk to their organisation and 45 per cent singling out extreme weather events. Such events linked to climate change cost the world around $2.86tn, an average of $143bn a year, from 2000 to 2019.

Whether businesses can afford to turn their backs on climate action will also be key to what happens after the elections in the EU, and in the 50 or so countries around the world that will vote in 2024. 

A more conservative parliament could continue to work on the energy transition, but under the guise of security and industrial strategies, rather than in the name of climate change, as various experts suggested to Claudia in her recent piece on the EU and the elections.

Indeed, “changing our economies to achieve the green transition presents challenges, but also opportunities”, as Valdis Dombrovskis, European Commission executive vice-president, said at the EU Sustainable Investment Summit 2024 in Brussels yesterday. 

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges with more populist radical rightwing parties in power globally is the potentially reduced space for “co-operation” and “dialogue” — two aspects Dombrovskis singled out as “crucial” for climate action and for ramping up sustainable finance.

In other news, Florence examines how companies in the UK are doing as they complete their first mandatory reports based on the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures recommendations, and we look at how, despite the 2015 Dieselgate scandal, disparities are continuing between new vehicles’ performance in manufacturers’ tests and their real-world emissions.

Until tomorrow,

Philippa

Philippa Nuttall is the deputy editor of Sustainable Views 

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