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ClientEarth Communications

30th May 2024


European Elections 2024: ​​all you need to know

When are the European Elections 2024

The European Parliament elections will take place on 6-9 June 2024. They take place every 5 years and this will be the first election after Brexit. This election coincides with a number of other elections taking place in the European Union.

How and who can vote in the European elections

As an EU citizen, you can vote in your country of origin, from abroad, or in the EU country you live in. You must be registered to vote and the minimum voting age is set by each EU country. This age is set at 16 in Austria, Belgium, Germany and Malta, 17 in Greece, and 18 in the remaining EU Member States.

What are we voting for in the European elections?

The European elections are a unique moment to collectively decide on the future of the European Union and shape policies on a range of topics that affect our everyday lives - from environmental protection and climate to human rights and democracy. It’s an opportunity to have your say on your future and the issues you care about. Your vote will decide which Member of the European Parliament will represent you in preparing new laws and policies for the next five years.

The representatives you elect will also influence the election of the European Commission. These decisions will not only shape your everyday life, but future generations too.

What is the European Parliament and what does it do?

The European Parliament is one of the legislative bodies of the European Union. Together with the Council of the European Union, it has the power to adopt and amend laws and to decide on the EU budget. It also supervises the work of the European Commission and other EU bodies and cooperates with national parliaments across the EU to get their input. 

How many seats are there in the European Parliament?

The European Parliament is made up of 705 members (MEPs) elected in the 27 Member States of the European Union. Due to demographic changes in the EU since the 2019 elections, the number of seats will to increase to 720 after the elections in June.

What is the EU doing to protect the environment?

In an effort to tackle the climate, biodiversity and pollution crises, the EU has taken action and achieved several positive outcomes. For instance:

  • It significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions and increased the share of renewable energy sources in the EU (which rose to a record 44% share of electricity production in 2023). 
  • It restored or improved the conservation status of more than 5 million hectares of land, following its investments in more than 1,800 nature and biodiversity projects and the creation of the largest coordinated network of conservation areas in the world – the Natura 2000 Network. 
  • It successfully drove down air pollution since 2005 – thanks to stronger laws and funding – and helped widen access to clean and safe water for all (95% of Europe's population now has access to high-quality water).

With the launch of the EU Green Deal in 2019, the EU decided to put the protection of the environment and the fight against climate change at the top of its political agenda. Since then, a series of laws – such as the EU Climate Law or the EU Deforestation-free Products Law – have been adopted to meet the main objective of the Green Deal: becoming carbon neutral by 2050. 

However, some key EU Green Deal proposals have also been dropped such as the revision of REACH, the EU’s regulation against harmful chemicals – undermining the delivery of the EU’s battle against toxic pollution. Recently, the Common Agricultural Policy’s environmental requirements were dangerously weakened, threatening EU’s sustainable food system objectives and the future of EU farmers. 

The European Green Deal set the foundation for genuine change by giving the environment a seat at the decision-making table. But today, EU leaders need to fill in the Green Deal’s gaps, ensure its full implementation and enforcement, and guarantee its social fairness.

How can the EU reach its climate and nature goals?

To reach its climate and nature goals, the EU needs to ensure that all environmental laws are implemented and result in real action on the ground. This also means that all the other laws, including EU budget and funding, remain coherent with that objective. 

1. Fix the implementation gap of EU environmental laws

Many laws voted at EU level are not properly implemented or enforced by national authorities, resulting in a real ‘implementation gap’. A report by the European Commission states, for instance, that fully implementing EU environmental laws could save the EU economy around EUR 55 billion every year in health costs and direct costs to the environment. To bolster enforcement, more resources and capacity must be granted at EU and national levels to increase monitoring and sanctions – if applicable against environmental law-breaking. 

2. Strengthen environmental democracy in the EU

Citizens and NGOs must also be empowered to challenge public authorities that break environmental laws. That is why we are calling for access to justice rights – the right for citizens to go to court when environmental laws are broken – to be upheld in all laws adopted at EU level. Having these rights enshrined in EU law is crucial to ensuring that all people across the EU enjoy the same rights. For example, countries like Poland or Bulgaria do not allow citizens to challenge cities in court if they do not respect air quality laws, while other countries like Belgium or Germany do. Correcting this unfairness will not only improve our democracy, but also ensure that the laws we pass don't just work on paper, but also work in practice.

3. Appoint a European Commission Vice-President for People and the Environment:

When it comes to future laws, the EU must ensure that environmental protection is embedded into all the laws that are adopted – known as the integration principle. This is key to make sure that all laws aligned and coherent in safeguarding the health of people and the planet to help deliver the EU’s just transition objectives.

For instance, when negotiating trade agreements, the EU must make sure that the products allowed on the common market have the same environmental and social standards as the products made in the EU. This seems like a no-brainer, but keeping this coherence is not an easy task, given the amount of laws adopted at EU level, in very different sectors. That is why we recommend the creation of a position – the Vice President for people and the environment – who would be part of the European Commission/sit within the European Commission and oversee all EU decisions.

Putting the environment, health and the just transition at the core of decision-making will guarantee a holistic approach to progress across the EU and mean that no decision is taken at the cost of people and nature.

3. Review EU budgets to stop funding fossil fuels with public money

This should help the EU put its money where it counts and finally put an end to harmful subsidies. A recent report highlighted that Member States are channelling between EUR 34 billion and EUR 48 billions of European subsidies annually into activities that harm nature – the bulk of them being allocated to agriculture. Such subsidies should be phased out to increase the support for the just transition and the application of the polluter pays principle. 

Read more on how the EU can build a new legal approach to protect people's health, nature and the economy.

How can I get involved and help put pressure on the next Members of the European Parliament and future EU leaders?

As a European citizen, you can put pressure on your EU representatives in different ways:

  1. Use your vote in the upcoming European Parliament elections to support candidates who push forward a political agenda in line with your values.
  1. Add your name and join us in asking future EU leaders to use the law to protect people and the planet. 
  1. European democracy does not happen only every five years. Stay informed on about our EU policy work after the EU elections, by exploring and signing the European Citizens’ Initiatives (ECIs), the only tool for direct democracy available at the EU level.