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A sweeping victory for ring-wing parties in the European Parliament’s elections is raising fears that the continent could see its approach to tackling climate change weakened.

While some ballots were still being counted Monday, provisional results from the four-day election showed eurosceptic nationalists are poised to play a much bigger role in the European Parliament, diminishing the status of mainstream liberals and Greens.

Most of the seats won by far-right parties have come at the expense of Green parties, indicating a shift in the priorities of European voters on issues like trade, migration and the climate crisis.

Projections showed the Green faction was pushed from fourth into sixth place, with only 53 seats. The biggest losses for the Greens and liberals came from France and Germany, traditional environmentalist strongholds.

French president Emmanuel Macron’s party faced a heavy defeat at the hands of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, prompting Mr Macron to call snap legislative elections.

Acknowledging the scale of his party’s defeat, Mr Macron said in an address: “I’ve heard your message, your concerns, and I won’t leave them unanswered.

“Far-right parties … are progressing everywhere in the continent. It is a situation to which I cannot resign myself.”

In Germany, chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) came third, scoring its worst-ever EU election result. The Greens also suffered a heavy defeat, losing nine of their 25 seats in the EU legislature.

President Ursula von der Leyen is on track to remain head of the European Commission until 2029, leading a more climate-sceptic parliament.

Even before the elections, Ms von der Leyen’s policies on climate action had become more relaxed in response to growing resistance, a phenomenon dubbed the “greenlash”.

Despite this, she declared on Monday: “The centre is holding. We won the European elections. We are by far the strongest party. We are the anchor of stability.”

European Greens co-leader Bas Eickhout accepted that the results were concerning but he said there was hope as some countries voted for Green representatives for the first time. Green parties gained one seat in Denmark and formed a Green-Left coalition that narrowly defeated the far-right in the Netherlands.

“The rise of the far-right in today’s elections is extremely concerning for all those who believe in a democratic European Union and in just and equal societies,” Mr Eickhout said in a statement.

“The losses in Germany and France are obviously a blow, [but] at the same time, in many countries the voters recognised the solutions of the Greens and elected MEPs from green parties in countries which had never sent Greens to the European Parliament.

“Given the multiple crises we face, we must not deny the problems ahead, but to work to find a way forward,” he said.

Pre-election surveys had already indicated increased support for politicians advocating weaker green policies. Europe-wide farmers’ protests, from the Netherlands to Greece, were seen as a backlash against 2020’s European Green Deal, a policy package aimed at transitioning the bloc’s entire economy – from energy and transport to agriculture – to become greener, or carbon neutral, by 2050.

After a major “green wave” in 2019 when a number of environmental leaders were elected, the bloc has been passing a raft of legislation to reduce planet heating greenhouse gas emissions, including a ban on the sale of new fossil fuel cars starting in 2035 and agricultural reforms.

The bloc was also looking at a 2040 goal to slash emissions by 90 per cent, but it needs approval from both EU countries and the European Parliament.

The rise of nationalist and populist parties is likely to make it much harder for the parliament to pass more laws on the climate crisis and agriculture policy over the next five years.

“All new policies will be harder to pass. But backsliding is very unlikely,” Krzysztof Bolesta, Poland’s secretary of state for climate, told Reuters.

The Greens say they are determined to muster support for the implementation of the Green Deal. “The Green Deal is still Europe’s best tool to protect people, tackle the climate crisis and future-proof our continent,” Mr Eickhout said.

“We call on other political groups, particularly EPP and Renew, to boost efforts to drive the Green Deal forward as the economic engine for Europe’s economy.”

“We are ready to play our part and work with those who stand on the side of democracy and freedom for all and we will fight all who attack the values of the European Union.”

Climate groups say the election results do not change the fact that the climate crisis remains an urgent threat to all Europeans.

“Whatever the final make-up of the new European Parliament, voters still rank climate change and saving nature among their top concerns, and a clear majority want the EU to take action in these areas in the next five years,” Greenpeace EU campaigner Ariadna Rodrigo said.

“This election will not make the climate and nature crisis any less existential. Flooding, droughts and heatwaves will only get worse, and all newly elected politicians will have to act to maintain our planet’s ability to sustain life and give our children a future.

“Whoever is in power, we will hold them to account and remind them of their responsibility.”


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