Can Europe save the environment?

Every 5 years, European citizens elect their representatives to European Parliament. The only European institution to be elected by universal suffrage, it functions like the parliament in a democratic country: the deputies are in charge of voting the directives of the European Union.

The difference, it is that these directives will have to be applied in each member country of the European Union. By signing the treaties guaranteeing their entry into the Union, countries are in fact required to submit to European legislation, which they must obligatorily apply. European law thus occupies a very important place, since it is superior French law, and has a significant impact on national legislation.

European legislation

We do not necessarily realize that, but many texts voted in the European Parliament have a direct impact on our daily lives. For example ? The RGPD. It spammed your mailbox last year, since all the websites and all the administrations to which you had transmitted data had to adapt to this new regulation.

Latest directive on the environment: the ban on disposable plastics from 2021. Voted in March 2019, its objective is to prohibit the production and importation of single-use plastic objects such as straws, cutlery, shopping bags, cotton swabs or coffee tins!

Europe and the environment: a story not so recent

Why is it so important to vote in the European elections if you feel concerned by the environmental cause? If we talk about Europe and the environment, it's because it has always been pioneering on the subject : Since the 70 years, standards and programs focusing on climate change and environmental protection have begun to be set up at the European level.

Did you know?

80% of the French laws concerning the environment are of Community origin. The future of the environment in France and the rest of Europe is at stake in the European Parliament.

europe and environment

In 1997, the European Union has included in its treaties the principle of sustainable development and protection of the environment as a requirement to which are subject all policies and actions of the European Union.

As early as 1972, Europe is acting for the environment, by registering its will to make a program of action for the environmental policies during the Paris Summit. Many directives were adopted at the time: their role is to supervise the management of waste, pollutant emissions or water quality in the various treaty countries.

Today, the action of the European Union in the field of the environment takes shape through its LIFE + program, aimed at financing research for the protection of the environment and biodiversity. The program subsidizes many projects and NGOs working against global warming.

Also, his "energy-climate" plan, adopted in 2008, aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in all 40% Member States by 2020. In addition to the fight against climate change, "package" legislation aims to establish a common policy for sustainable energy:

  • 27% renewable energy in the energy mix by 2020,
  • Increase 20% energy efficiency in the European Union

The energy mix, what is it?

The energy mix is ​​the different ways in which energies such as electricity are produced in a given area (oil, coal, wind, hydro, nuclear, etc.)

pollution european union

But all these laws are not enough: even today, much progress remains to be done to improve the protection of the environment in the European Union.
So pioneering, Europe is still to this day 25 million tons of plastic waste per year. And according to the European Environment Agency, more than 400 000 people died prematurely because of the atmospheric pollution in the European Union in 2018.

Europeans and climate: what stakes in 2019?

For these elections, the environmental issue is a key issue: citizens are more and more mobilized for the climate in the European Union, which is reflected on the electoral programs.

According to an IPSOS poll conducted among potential voters in the European elections, approximately 80% respondents want to vote in favor of parties prioritizing environmental issues in their programs. This international mobilization for the climate, more and more visible, shows that the population feels more and more concerned.
Like the young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, known to advocate for the environmental cause in Sweden and during the COP24, many citizens embody these demands, which take more and more space in the public debate at European level.

environmental manifestation

Today, however, more than one in two European citizens abstain for the European elections. In the last 2014 poll, the abstention rate was 57,57%, which is almost 20% higher than 30 years ago.

What explains this abstention? Between selflessness and estrangement of citizens from European directives, and a general sense of helplessness in the face of political decisions, there are many reasons for European citizens to turn away from the polls.

The European Parliament seems indeed far from our daily considerations. Yet, it is an institution that has a lot of weight at the international level, and that could make a difference.

Today, the main obstacles to legislation for the European Union remain the blocking some member states when voting in Parliament: electing parties favoring ecological causes is a good solution to allow texts for the environment to be voted more quickly.

Another potential brake: that of certain lobbies, against which environmental parties do not always make the weight in Parliament. The recent glyphosate record is one of the most telling examples, as it will have led to the renewal of authorizations to use the pesticide for 5 years, up to 2022. And for good reason: the lobbies of companies marketing the infamous herbicide had funded toxicity tests.

Vote for the environment: who proposes what?

In France, the European vote is very strategic: France is one of the best represented countries in the European Parliament! With Brexit, the hexagon is awarded 79 seats on 751, and comes in second behind Germany, which has 96. One more reason to participate in the ballot. The seats are allocated to the representatives of the Member States according to their demographics A country like France, which has more than 60 million inhabitants, will therefore have more deputies than a country like Denmark, which has 6 million inhabitants.

Good to know

The seats in the European Parliament, unlike the French parliamentary elections, are distributed proportionally. After the ballot, each party that has obtained more than 5% of the votes gets a number of seats proportional to its number of votes. This allows for better representation of the interests of civil society, and gives smaller parties the opportunity to sit in Parliament.

vote European elections

For this vote, many political parties make the environment a major issue for their campaign. The example of LREM, which puts Pascal Canfin, former president of WWF, in second place on his list, is significant.

"On all ecological topics, the European Parliament is essential. It is not for nothing that 80% of the environmental rules that we apply in France come from Europe. The mother of the battles, she is there. - Pascal Canfin

The LREM list also defends glyphosate exit from here 2021 (the pesticide had been renewed for 5 in 2017), and the reduction of the use of harmful pesticides by two by 2025. It also sets the goal of removing hydrocarbons by 2050.

Yannick Jadot, head of list for Europe Ecology The Greens, proposes to him the establishment of a new treaty on the environment, which should impose on all member states a stricter regulation to encourage legislation to protect the environment. Among others, EELV also wants energy 100% renewable from here 2050.

La France Insoumise, when it carries the project of establishing a European regulation in favor of the ecology, the "Green rule" : it imposes the necessity of " not to take on nature more renewable resources than it can replenish, nor to produce more than nature can bear And the alignment of European energy targets with the Paris Agreement. This international agreement, which came into effect at the end of 2016, sets in particular the objective of keeping below 2 degrees global warming by 2100.

La liste LR proposes for its part a zero carbon target by 2050, and the list PS an output of coal and diesel by 2030.

While some of these election promises may sometimes seem overly ambitious, they nevertheless seem to be moving in the direction of a change in legislation on environmental issues: there is still much to be done in Europe for the planet, and it is in elections that the future of European policies on biodiversity and climate!



A special correspondence from Robin, Web Editor -

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