Shifting Political Winds Threaten Progress on Europe’s Green Goals

Germany’s finance minister, withdrew his party’s support for a crucial agreement between the governing parties to phase out the nation’s coal-burning power plants by 2030. “Until it is clear that energy is available and affordable, we should end dreams of phasing out coal-fired power” by that year, he said.

After right-wing populists led by Giorgia Meloni came to power in Italy in fall 2022, they swiftly retracted environmental commitments made by the previous government. Funds originally destined for the transition to a greener economy have been redirected “to make Italy a gas hub”.

The new government in Stockholm cut funding for climate measures and reduced taxes on petrol in one of its first acts.

In Finland, the newly elected right-wing government cut taxes meant to further reduce CO2 emissions, stopped projects that would have improved the capacity of Finland’s extensive bogs to sequester carbon, and has failed to take steps to protect old-growth forests from logging for energy production.

The backlash in many EU countries mirrors developments in the U.K., where the conservative government of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is reversing climate-friendly policies and planning to “max out” oil production.

Meanwhile, biodiversity in Europe continues to dwindle. Populations of formerly common birds inhabiting farmland have shrunk by more than one-third since 1990. Protected areas of land and sea cover far less than the 30% target, and a new study has just revealed that nearly one-fifth of all European plant and animal species are threatened by regional extinction, a much higher share than recent Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services assumptions.