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As Europe Heats Up, Voters Are Cooling on the Greens

As Europe Heats Up, Voters Are Cooling on the Greens
Spain’s then-Acting Minister of Labor and Social Economy Yolanda Diaz participates in the Green Social Summit, in Madrid, Spain, Sept. 30, 2023 (Europe Press photo by Ricardo Rubio via AP Images).

When it comes to the global threat of climate change, Europe has been very much in the eye of the storm over the past 12 months. Record-breaking heatwaves in the U.K. and Ireland, unprecedented drought across the Mediterranean and devastating floods in Germany are just the latest wave of climate change catastrophes that have cost the fastest-warming continent on the planet an estimated 145 billion euros in damages over the past decade.

Despite the devastating impact of these extreme climate events on communities across the region, proponents of radical climate action have long resigned themselves to one of the ironclad laws of politics: When voter preoccupation with pocketbook issues like inflation goes up, concern for the effects of climate change goes down. Indeed, it is only in the past few months, as the cost-of-living crisis has eased, that climate change has risen up the political agenda once more, with a recent Europe-wide poll carried out by Euronews finding that over half of voters now see climate action as a priority. However, less than a month out from elections to the European Parliament, renewed public focus on the issue is not translating into votes for Green parties, which are expected to sustain major losses across the bloc when all the votes are counted on June 10.

The picture looked very different for the Greens back in 2019, when they achieved their best-ever European election results, increasing their representation by almost a third and becoming a significant force in the current European Parliament. That was followed by a record-breaking performance in the 2021 German general elections, which saw the party enter the coalition government that emerged from the poll. Since those heady days, however, the Greens have experienced a sobering fall to earth. According to the most recent polling trends, the Green bloc in the European Parliament is set to lose up to 40 percent of its seats, while the Green party is hemorrhaging support in Germany, a traditional stronghold of the movement. The pattern is the same for national parties elsewhere.

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