The European Elections and Renewable Energy

On 6-9th of June 2024, about 373 million citizens in 27 countries across Europe will be able to vote in the European elections. Following the COP28 decision in December 2023 agreeing on a global tripling target for renewable energy by 2030, the topic of renewable energy is a key topic for many candidates. In 2019, the EU brought forth the Green Deal, which is the EU´s strategy to achieving climate neutrality by 2050. The Fit for 55 package is how the Green Deal ambitions will be turned into law. This year´s parliamentary elections can have a significant impact on how these targets and ambitions will be met.

A number of aspects are related to renewable energy, including:

  • Revising energy taxation
  • Boosting renewable energy across sectors and types of energy
  • Increasing energy efficiency
  • Shifting from fossil fuels to renewable and low carbon gases
  • Improving alternative fuels infrastructure for transportation
  • Reforming the EU emissions trading system

The European Parliament is a driving force behind Europe’s renewable energy push. In September 2023, the Parliament championed a target of 42.5% renewable energy consumption by 2030. Additionally, Parliamentarians voted for streamlining the approval process for new and modernised solar and wind power plants. Laws on energy efficiency also contribute to the targets adopted in July 2023. The EU aims to achieve a collective reduction of energy consumption of at least 11,7% by 2030. Reaching this target will require local, regional and national measures as well as monitoring and enforcement mechanisms.  

Improving energy efficiency for the built environment is another key area of focus for the European Parliament. In March 2024, they updated the regulations on building energy performance, setting a course for a carbon-neutral building sector in the EU by 2050. Additionally, a new provision of the Renewable Energy Directive, which entered into force in November 2023, mandates EU member states to approve permits for solar energy installations on buildings within one month. This fast-tracked permitting process aims to accelerate the shift towards renewable energy sources in the residential and commercial sectors.

The Election as a Power Shift

If current indications hold up, the 2024 European elections could usher in a shift to the right in many countries. The European Centre on Foreign Relations (ECFR) forecasts that nearly half of MEP seats will be outside of the three centrist parties. This could create headwinds for climate and environmental legislation. The ECFR even suggests that an “anti-climate policy action” coalition could be dominant, with significant impact on the adoption and enforcement of the EU´s net zero target policies.

Given the immediate need to take decisive climate decisions that help the EU meet and exceed targets, it is crucial that climate change does not become a victim of politics and become tainted by climate dis- and misinformation. Numerous civil society and academic actors, including the Environmental Defense Fund, the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, Covering Climate Now and the World Economic Forum highlight the importance of addressing this element of the collective climate change discourse.

Euractive recently reported on “virulent online disinformation” related to the EU Green Deal ahead of the European elections. The European Digital Media Observatory even created a hashtag, #BeElectionsSmart, in an EU-wide campaign to help voters identify false or manipulative content. Disinformation can fuel voter discontent and drive votes away from policies that support the environment.

Become an Educated Voter

The need for forward-looking, holistic, and coordinated climate change policies has never been more important than now. The Climate Clock says we have about 5 years left to limit global warming to the 1.5°C goal. Understanding the different stakeholders and the interconnectedness across climate issues, such as climate-smart agriculture, more affordable and accessible climate finance, increased renewable energy capacity and carbon emissions reductions targets for example, is a useful way to ensure that votes are supporting candidates who have our shared sustainable future in mind.

Resources consulted:

Dennison, Susi, Kevin Cunningham, Simon Hix, and Imogen Learmonth. “A Sharp Right Turn: A Forecast for the 2024 European Parliament Elections.” ECFR, January 23, 2024.

“Energy Saving: Eu Action to Reduce Energy Consumption: Topics: European Parliament.” Topics | European Parliament, March 18, 2024.

“EU’s Green Deal Target of Disinfo Ahead of June Vote.”, May 6, 2024.

“Renewable Energy: Setting Ambitious Targets for Europe: Topics: European Parliament.” Topics | European Parliament, March 21, 2024.