Will Green parties survive?                                      

Resistance to green policies has broken out across Europe. The left-leaning Greens lost 18 of their previous 71-member bloc, a 25% drop, in the recent European parliamentary election. It was different in the last European elections five years ago, when young voters especially demanded action against climate change.

Soaring energy prices because of the conflict in Ukraine and the wider cost of living crisis have turned many Europeans against abandoning fossil fuels. And farmers across Europe have blocked roads in anger at environmental reforms.

That kind of result could have a major impact on how the EU implements some of its Green Deal for the European economy, which is part of the Climate Law that aims to make Europe carbon-neutral by 2050. Part of the deal has already been passed in a package of measures to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 55% of 1990 levels by 2030. The laws include a controversial clause that bans the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in the EU by 2035.

Most of the policies that decide how the EU achieves its goals for 2040 still have to be agreed in the coming years. Additionally, if there’s enough political pressure, even directives that have already been approved can be changed.

And parties on the right and far right across the continent have responded fast to public discontent, weighing up expensive decarbonisation processes and investments in green transition against the cost-of-living crisis. In Italy, League leader Matteo Salvini has long complained that the 2035 ban on new diesel and petrol car sales is both anti-European and a gift to the Chinese electric car industry and he has made it a key part of his agenda.

Germany’s coalition government nearly fell apart because of a backlash over its plans to ban new oil and gas heating systems from 2024. The policy was watered down as voters reacted angrily to the idea of having to ditch their boilers. The AfD party complained of an eco-dictatorship.

In the Netherlands, government plans to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions outraged farmers and led to a surge in support for the Farmer-Citizens Movement (BBB), who are now set to be part of the new government. The coalition, which includes populist Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party, plans to row back on a number of green policies, including subsidies for electric cars and solar panels.

Sweden was long seen as spearheading Europe’s fight against climate change. But the government, which relies on the support of the far-right Sweden Democrats, was criticized by the Swedish climate policy council for losing pace and putting through policies that meant emissions would rise.

In Spain, one of the countries in Europe most affected by the effects of climate change, the far-right Vox party denies climate change is man-made and wants to roll back most recent green policies.

It seems that green policies from green parties do not really work in reality. They are too extreme. They want higher targets, more demands, but they are likely too ambitious. They are not giving the industry the right tools for the transition, and industries need the chance to catch up and the impact of measures must be assessed first.

Despite the backlash, climate change remains at the forefront of European voters’ minds. In last month’s EU Eurobarometer survey on European attitudes on the environment, 78% of respondents said environmental issues had a direct effect on their daily life and 84% agreed EU environmental legislation was necessary for protecting the environment in their country.

But cost of living issues are going to play a larger role and this will have a major impact on the Green parties. The environmental demands will have to be reasonable and cost efficient and most likely slow down and become less ambitious.

While the exact set of circumstances differ, the commonality on either side of the Atlantic is clear. Extreme environmental policies have weakened Western nations, economically and geopolitically. The Green party in the U.S. only get around 1-2% of the vote and has limited political influence. The democratic party is more focused on environmental issues than the republicans and support global climate cooperation.

The energy industry is undergoing significant changes as products evolve and due to the conflict in Ukraine. Before the conflict started in early 2022, the EU got nearly half of its imported liquified natural gas (LNG) from Russia. Today, the U.S. has become the world leader in LNG exports.

The Green parties are struggling as reality sets in about costs and consequences of the transition to a more environmentally friendly economy. It is too expensive and too aggressive. It is time to slow down the pace and find a reasonable road map for the environment. The Green parties will most likely survive as there is a core group of voters who sets the green agenda before anything else, but a growing number of voters realize that the pace might be too fast, and it is time to slow down. There has to be some level of economic sanity behind environmental policies.   

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