The Guardian view on Europe’s troubled green deal: make the case, not concessions

(The Guardian, 8 Apr 2024) Leaders need to persuade others of the need for environmental measures rather than capitulate in the face of political headwinds.

Last month, a survey of public opinion in Germany, France and Poland found that a majority in each country would support more ambitious policies to tackle the climate emergency. The same study also found unexpectedly widespread support for pan-European action linking green goals to other priorities such as economic security. Who knew, at a time when warnings of a popular “green backlash” are rife?

Unfortunately, Europe’s politicians are now on a very different page. Rattled by farmers’ protests – which radical-right parties have swiftly co-opted as a new front in their culture wars – Brussels and national governments have been busily sounding a disorderly, panicked retreat on environmental targets. Since the turn of the year, the U-turns and capitulations have come thick and fast.

In February, the European Commission’s president, Ursula von der Leyen, announced the binning of proposals to halve the use of pesticides in agriculture by 2030. Changes to the common agricultural policy, designed to encourage more sustainable farming practices, have also been scrapped. A reference to reducing non-CO2 emissions in agriculture by 30% was quietly dropped from the 2040 climate roadmap. Most emblematically and most depressingly, the EU’s nature restoration law is now on life support after two years of tortured negotiations and despite a series of compromises. In March, a withdrawal of support from some member states led to what should have been a rubber-stamp vote being pulled at the 11th hour.

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The Guardian, 8 Apr 2024: The Guardian view on Europe’s troubled green deal: make the case, not concessions