On Sunday 26, in addition to the local and regional elections, the Spanish citizens will elect their representatives to the European Parliament for the next 5 years. These years will be key to determining the future of our planet, as decisions will be taken that may be key to the fight against climate change and to achieving the objectives of containing global warming below 2º. Therefore, it is essential to know the importance of the EU in the determination of environmental policies and the fight against climate change and to bear the importance of these elections in mind: our future and the future of the planet depend on it. The world has between 10 and 15 years to reduce the impact of climate change, according to the latest IPCC report.
EU policies and regulations affect us much more than we think on a day-to-day basis, and part of Spanish legislation has its origin in European regulations. The European Parliament, whose members are elected in these elections, has a central function: it approves legislation, the budget and controls the rest of the EU institutions. In addition, MEPs place on the political agenda many issues of high importance to public opinion.
Despite their importance, participation in European elections is traditionally low, with much abstention, especially among young people. Only 35% of citizens between 25 and 35 years old and 28% of young people between 18 and 24% took part in the 2014 elections. However, young people will be one of the groups most affected by climate change and other environmental problems if urgent action is not taken.
1- Climate change: Are you worried about climate change? The influence of the European Parliament on the measures to be taken in the next five years on this issue will be key. The European Parliament has pushed for a 40% reduction in emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. More ambitious targets are still needed to comply with the Paris Agreement, and Parliament is the key institution to push for more ambitious targets.
2- Energy transition: The EU must be the engine that accelerates the energy transition to move towards the total decarbonization of the economy. In 2018 (during the development of the so-called “Clean Energy Package”), the Parliament managed to increase the target of 27% renewable energy by 2030 to 32%, a huge difference that shows the importance of the Parliament. In 2016, Parliament also succeeded in raising the energy efficiency target from 27% to 30%.
3- Plastics and air pollution: Measures against single-use plastics, regulations on the use of plastic bags, promotion of organic food consumption, or a 37.5% reduction in CO2 emissions from vehicles are some of the wins. A strong Parliament is essential to adopt measures to improve air quality, which causes numerous impacts on health and the environment: among others, efforts must be multiplied in the coming years to leave behind the production of energy with fossil fuels and reduce polluting emissions (energy, transport or agriculture), strengthen EU air quality laws, or introduce new and more demanding air quality standards, aligned with WHO guidelines.
4- Budget and control: The Parliament will approve by the beginning of July the EU budget and the details of the Financial Framework for the period 2021-2027. In the coming years, the budget will include key items such as the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy), Research funds or the LIFE Programme. It is essential to have a Parliament approving a budget in line with international commitments on biodiversity or tackling climate change. In addition, the Parliament also exercises a control function over other EU institutions that must ensure compliance with European policies as well as their transparency. The Parliament is partly responsible for several EU advances in environmental issues: reducing industrial emissions of toxic substances, banning pesticides or particularly harmful chemicals, reducing acidification of lakes and forests, recycling, or improving wastewater treatment.
5- Spanish leadership in environmental issues: Spain, one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, but also one of the most aware, has the capacity to lead a sustainable Europe, which in turn can lead change at a global level. According to the Eurobarometer, 95% of Europeans attach a great deal or quite a lot of importance to the environment. 77% consider, adequately, that the environment has an impact on their daily lives. The European Parliament must represent these citizens and draw up an ambitious new Environmental Action Programme and regulations that will place the EU in a position of global leadership in fulfilling the UN Agenda 2030 for sustainable development in the coming years.