Road to EU 2024

Environment and agriculture: what’s cooking up in EU parties manifestos?

05
June 2024
By Editorial Staff

How much green-focused are European political groups manifestos? The Green Deal has been one of the most debated topics over the last months of the European Parliament mandate. Farmers protests have scattered throughout Europe and forced the European Commission to run for cover and propose measures to ease administrative burden and obligations under the new Common agricultural policy.

All political groups competing for a bigger role in the next European Parliament mandate to heed the economic and social costs of environmental policies that farmers are stressing.

According to the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) manifesto, the implementation of the Green Deal should be aligned with social and ecological policies aimed at fighting energy poverty and the burden of high energy prices. The Greens called on the next Commission to allocate 10% of the EU budget to biodiversity objectives as of 2026 stressing the need to work with “farmers and local communities”. In its manifesto, the European People’s Party (Epp) states that “climate policy should go hand in hand with our economy and society”.

While The Left group proposes an unspecified “new green social contract based on justice and respect for the environment and future generations”, the European Conservatives and Reformists group (Ecr) rather persists on “a different approach to the Green Deal promoted in the last legislation”. The new concept is intended to build “real sustainability on a balanced approach to climate action, prioritizing socio-economic well-being, supporting existing legislative requirements, without neglecting economic Interests”.

Energy autonomy matters

As one of the most relevant topics due to the Russian aggression of Ukraine, energy autonomy finds big room among electoral programs.

Nuclear energy is explicitly featured as part of the “technology-neutral approach” advocated by the Epp and the Ecr groups. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (Alde) urges to invest “in all types of renewable, carbon-neutral, and waste-based energy sources”. This is not the case for the Greens, since the group calls upon to build a “community of renewables connecting and powering the continent” based on an energy system relying 100% on solar, water, wind and geothermal.

The aim is to make this system fossil-free by 2040. In their view, fossil fuel subsidies in the EU have to stop by 2025 at the latest. The ban should then be extended to all other environmentally harmful subsidies by 2027 at the latest. They claim that “the billions of euros from fossil fuel subsidies must be channelled into renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy savings”. The final goal is to prevent not a single “European or member state public money finances fossil infrastructure”.

The need to ramp up hydrogen production stands out in the European People’s Party manifestos, which also raise the issue of a “robust EU financial arm to support an industrial and green ambitious” to boost European competitiveness and enable “an inclusive economic transformation”. This wording recalls the special fund the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen hinted at during the Davos economic forum in January 2023. Alde members urge the next EU executive to develop a European strategy for the sustainable use of biomass. This would incorporate land use goals and ensure alignment with European policies on bioenergy and bioeconomy.

The Left group calls for the European Commission to prioritize a legal right to basic energy security “ensuring free access for heating and household purposes”. Public control is prompted on hydrocarbons and alternative energy sources and services involved in energy production, transmission and distribution. Services such as water distribution and sanitation should be operated under public ownership. The set up of an Energy Guarantee to fight households’ energy poverty is featured as one of the main instruments the Greens group aspires to see accomplished in the next mandate.

The way to show for mobility

Something similar is conceived for mobility. The Greens manifesto claims for a European Climate Ticket Framework. It is depicted as a pass providing a Europe-wide public transport affordable accessibility and ensuring discounted fares for young people, single-parent families and the elderly.
The S&D group advocates clean and smart mobility with affordable and sustainable public transport to be granted in all regions. The mobility part in the EPP manifesto is limited to the completion and development of the new Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) infrastructures.

The ECR and the Greens groups are poles apart as far as the internal combustion engines ban is concerned. The right-wing party’s members “stand for the internal combustion engine to remain commercially viable for years to come by embracing cutting-edge technology and investing in groundbreaking research on alternative low-emission fuels”. The ecologist party, in contrast, asks to phase out internal combustion engines and prioritize public transport over electric cars, also encouraging companies to include electric cars in their corporate fleets. It also strives to introduce a frequent flyer levy, with exceptions for island regions banning short-haul where alternatives are available, and a ban on private jets.

Agriculture it’s a thorny issue

As regards agriculture, the EPP is firm on the need to reinforce the economic pillar of the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) program “to operate more sustainably and generate sufficient income, as well as offering them protection in volatile markets”. The younger generation should be granted pre-emption rights and fewer excessive requirements. Special attention should be given to less rules on the sustainable use of plant protection products (SUR) and for farmers to be lifted from unnecessary bureaucracy. The moderate right-wing party also pledges a Natura 2000 legislation revision spurring to boost the EU Member State’s role in the effective protection of nature.

The key points of the Greens group manifesto related to this policy field include a 50% reduction in pesticide use by 2030 with a total ban on glyphosate, and “a fundamental shift away from subsidies for industrial agriculture based on pesticides and monocultures to massive investment into organic farming and agroecological production”. These goals have to be matched with a ban on animal mega-farms and animal cruelty in industrial farming. Animal transport should not exceed an 8-hour travel duration (with 4 hours for certain species) or 300-kilometre distance.

The Greens urge the next European Commission to launch a strategy that leads to a clean and pollution-free ocean by 2030 and stop overfishing practices. They call for a fight against deep sea mining and a global moratorium. The next 2028-2034 CAP financing program should provide quality jobs increase food security and focus on the strengthening of the plant-based protein sector.

The Alde party mentions the reform of CAP for better streamlining the distribution of existing funds and incentivizing the adoption of sustainable practices and tools such as crop rotation and biochar – a charcoal made from organic waste – to reduce carbon leakage and precision farming. The gradual abolishment of the area-based funding system is the main action coveted by The Left group given the next CAP reform. The ECR group stands for the rejection of green ideology and unfair practices, the championing of EU products and reiterating its commitment to food sovereignty.

In its manifesto, S&D groups concisely call attention to the use of CAP to support farmers’ income, jobs and their transition to sustainable agriculture, while protecting them from unfair competition. Secure healthy and affordable food for all by embracing sustainable farming and fishing is also a major concern.

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