Credit: European Parliament & Joybot

10 ways the 2019 European elections can be a green game changer

In May 2019, voters across the EU will head to the polls to elect the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who will represent them for the next five years. And with the Parliament having a say on all EU legislative proposals, the over 700 elected representatives will be instrumental when it comes to major decisions on a raft of green topics such as the fight against pollution and climate change to resource use and nature protection.

With political groups and candidates about to ramp up their campaigning efforts, a coalition of 10 of the largest environmental organisations in Europe – the ‘Green 10’ – has published its own ‘manifesto’ outlining 10 environmental priorities that they say should be front and centre of the political manifestos landing in letterboxes and inboxes over the next few months.

Jeremy Wates, Secretary General of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) – a Green 10 member, said:

“From extreme weather events to the migrant crisis and the rise of hate propaganda, Europe is facing a number of challenges that pose a direct threat to its citizens and democracy. With the 2019 European elections we have a chance to turn things around and present a new narrative – one that truly addresses these challenges and serves the interests of the many and not of the few.”

Take a look at the Green 10 coalition’s ‘10 wins for people and planet‘:

1) A global leader in the fight against climate change

Under the Paris Agreement on climate change, the EU agreed to aim to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C. To do so, it must significantly increase its 2030 targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions, renewable energy and energy savings. The EU must ensure a full decarbonisation of its economy by the middle of the century. This means ending the use of coal, oil and gas, while steering away from harmful alternatives, such as unsustainable bioenergy, nuclear energy and geoengineering methods to reduce carbon emissions. And it must go hand in hand with completely divesting public funding from carbon pollution and investing in a sustainable economy.


2) Healthy ecosystems

The EU has committed to halt biodiversity loss and end overfishing and deforestation by 2020. While limited progress has been made, plant and animal species continue to vanish at an alarming rate, mainly due to industrial farming and infrastructure development, as well as climate change. The EU must get serious about enforcing its nature, marine and invasive alien species laws, and implement, rather than revise, its framework water law. It must allocate enough resources from the EU budget to protect nature, transition from fisheries management to ocean conservation, radically reform its farming policy, reverse global deforestation, and support nature restoration.


 3) Clean air for all

The new Commission and the European Parliament must swiftly deal with the number one environmental threat to health in Europe. Air pollution causes more than 400,000 early deaths every year in the EU. It exacerbates chronic illnesses and causes huge health, environmental and economic costs. The new Commission and MEPs must ensure the full enforcement of the EU’s air quality laws, resist attempts to weaken them by EU governments, introduce new rules to tackle the main sources of pollution (from the transport, energy, heating, industrial and agricultural sectors), and update the EU’s air quality standards to align them with the World Health Organization’s.


4) A world leader in clean transport

The Dieselgate scandal exposed the failings of the EU’s efforts to reduce emissions from cars and trucks, but it also offers a unique opportunity to accelerate the transition to genuinely clean mobility. The next European Parliament should regulate to eliminate pollutants, noise and CO2 emissions, in particular by delivering a strategy that makes Europe a world leader in zero-emission and shared transportation powered by clean renewable electricity.


5) An EU Budget that addresses global and European environmental challenges.

The current EU budget is largely at odds with EU and international objectives on sustainability, and climate and environmental protection. The Commission’s recently published proposal for the next EU budget does not provide the transformational shift needed to make climate change and the environment key priorities after 2020. The next budget must be in line with international commitments on climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development, with a clearly defined, mandatory spending target of 50% for climate change and nature across all budget instruments, while excluding fossil fuels from all programmes. In addition, funding for the EU’s LIFE programme should be at least 1% of the total budget.


6) Detoxing Europe’s future

Many goods contain chemicals such as plastics, flame retardants or nanomaterials. They threaten wildlife, the environment and public health – increasing the risk of serious diseases such as cancer, infertility problems and neurodevelopmental disorders. They also come at a serious financial cost. The EU must reduce people’s exposure to hazardous chemicals, while accelerating substitution with safer alternatives. It must regulate to protect the environment and people’s health from pesticides, endocrine disruptors, and poisoning from lead, mercury or other toxic chemicals.


7) Clean circular economy: use fewer resources, and harmonise chemicals, product and waste laws

Europe’s throwaway culture worsens social inequalities, threatens public health and depletes resources worldwide. Poor coordination between laws on chemicals, products and waste impedes the protection of material cycles from toxic chemicals. The EU needs coherent policies to prevent waste and promote the use of durable and repairable toxic-free goods by design. Hazardous substances should not survive in recycled products. This shift will result in cost savings, new jobs, healthier people and a safer environment.


8) A more transparent, democratic and accountable Europe

The EU must guarantee the right to information, participation and justice for all. It must end its noncompliance with the Aarhus Convention by improving access to justice. The EU must ensure greater transparency in EU decision-making and lobbying activities, and improve restrictions on ‘revolving door’ practices. This would strengthen the legitimacy of the EU, ensure balanced stakeholder engagement, prevent corporate capture of decision making processes, and avoid conflicts of interest.


9) Trade deals that work for people, not big business

All the EU’s future trading relationships must prioritise the public interest, instead of seeking to maximise trade volumes and minimise costs for multinationals. Special arbitration provisions for foreign investors should be excluded from all current and future trade deals. The Paris Agreement on climate change, environmental non-regression and ‘do not harm’ clauses should be included in all European free trade agreements, with legally binding and enforceable sustainable development chapters.


10) A sustainable Europe that respects planetary boundaries

In order to deliver on the environmental aspects of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and ensure that Europe lives within its ecological means, the EU must deliver an ambitious 8th Environmental Action Programme. The current GDP-focused approach to the economy has resulted in resource depletion and species extinction, while increasing inequality, debt and the number of working poor. Europe urgently needs new economic policies that create well-being for all, within the limits of the ecosystems that sustain life. It must prevent the costs of environmental pollution from being passed onto future generations.