Citizens across Europe are about to elect the new European Parliament and set the course for EU policies over the next five years. We asked Leena Ylä-Mononen, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency’s (EEA) about the significance of these elections and environment and climate challenges ahead. 

How would you sum up the significance of the 2024 European elections?

This is a critical time for Europe. We have gone through several crises and Russia’s war against Ukraine continues. People are worried about cost of living, food security and energy security. At the same time, the impacts of climate change are becoming more and more visible and dramatic. Degradation of nature is equally concerning. It is hard to overstate the significance of these elections – the decisions Europeans make now are hugely important for both current and future generations. 

Leena Ylä-Mononen
Leena Ylä-Mononen
EEA Executive Director

What have been the biggest achievements of the EU in environment and climate policy over the past five years? 

The European Green Deal has put the environment and climate agenda at the centre of EU policymaking, including to support Europe’s competitiveness. Clearly, the European Climate Law was a major milestone to have a joint commitment to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 and policies and targets to support that. The EU and its Member States have also stated high ambitions in many other areas, such as advancing circular economy, reducing air pollution and ensuring a just transition. Based on for example Eurobarometer surveys, EU citizens also expect ambitious actions in these areas. 

What environment and climate challenges wait for the new Parliament and Commission?

The EEA monitors progress towards the targets of the EU 8th Environmental Action Programme, which cover the main areas of Europe’s sustainability ambitions. Our assessment shows that more efforts are needed in basically all environment and climate areas, such as climate change mitigation and adaptation, circular economy, nature, pollution, and more sustainable production and consumption. 

More recently we also analysed climate risks in more detail and it is clear that responding to these risks will be important both for the EU, its Member States and also regional and local authorities over the next years. The EU also needs to agree on a 2040 target for greenhouse gas emission reductions, and there are many more areas where action is needed, including to improve the state of nature, boost circular economy, and to improve sustainability of chemicals. 

Why is it important that Europe’s green transition continues? 

Europe’s green transition has gained momentum over the past few years, and it is indeed important to now stay the course. Saving energy and investing in renewables boosts Europe’s competitiveness and makes us less dependent on imported fossil fuels. Safeguarding nature and reducing pollution will improve people’s health and long-term security of food production. Accelerating progress towards circular economy will save resources and help secure critical raw materials. There are still many very good reasons to continuing and accelerating the green transition in Europe as it supports our security, competitiveness and people’s well-being. 

What else do you hope for the European elections? 

The European Parliament elections are a cornerstone of European democracy. This is the time when people can really make their voices heard and every vote counts, so I sincerely hope that people use their right to vote. This includes young Europeans who will live longest with the impacts of the decisions that are taken now.

With war in Europe, authorities and citizens should also do their outmost so that the elections can be held without disinformation campaigns or other interference – so let us celebrate European democracy and make it stronger by using our right to vote. 

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