Climate Change: at the Heart of a New European Political Balance

Thomas Pellerin-Carlin, chef du Jacques Delors Energy Centre, Thierry Chopin, conseiller spécial à l’Institut Jacques Delors, et Geneviève Pons, directrice du bureau de Bruxelles de l’Institut Jacques Delors, analysent le poids du climant dans l’équilibre politique,à l’aune des élections européennes de 2019.

Climate change is a defining challenge for Europe and the world. The way we respond –or choose not to respond- to climate change is already shaping our political systems. The recent Yellow Vest movement, youth demonstrations during the #FridaysForFuture and the popularity breakthrough of young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg may be the tip of an iceberg that may impact the political balance in the European Parliament after the 23-26 May 2019 elections.

The next European Parliament will be more fragmented. The centre-left (S&D) and the centre-right (EPP) will experience a significant decline in their share of seats and, in contrast to the current situation, will not be able to command a majority together. Out of arithmetic necessity, parties’ positioning on European integration is likely to be the key to forming the majority needed for the appointment of the next European Commission and in passing EU legislation. In this policy brief, we focus on (1) the way EU citizens see climate change as a political topic for the EU, while (2) the 2019 European Parliament elections will mark the end of the S&D-EPP coalition that dominated EU policies for the past decades and lead to the creation of a new coalition, potentially with the Greens, (3) which would open a window of opportunity for a coalition agenda centred on climate action, innovation-based competitiveness and social justice.