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Opinion polls signal EU election result could hamper climate action - research

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags fly outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels

By Kate Abnett

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Parliament election this year could make passing ambitious climate change policies harder, if the vote delivers the "sharp right turn" that recent opinion polls suggest, researchers said on Wednesday.

EU citizens are set in June to elect a new EU parliament - the body of 705 lawmakers which, alongside member countries' representatives, passes new EU policies and laws.

The election is expected to yield more seats for populist, right-wing parties, and losses for centre-left and green parties, producing an "anti-climate policy action" coalition in the Parliament, according to a study commissioned by the European Council on Foreign Relations think-tank.

"This would significantly undermine the EU's Green Deal framework and the adoption and enforcement of common policies to meet the EU's net zero targets," the study said.

The research combined opinion polls from each EU member state with a statistical model of how national parties performed in previous EU elections.

It noted uncertainties in this method, including in predicting how some national political parties will group together in the EU Parliament.

The EU has passed a raft of environmental measures to cut CO2 emissions, curb pollution and protect nature in the last few years - interlinked issues that Brussels has said must be tackled in tandem.

Yet recent environmental laws have met pushback from some governments, lawmakers and industries concerned about cost and red tape.

To demonstrate the potential post-election shift, the researchers compared a recent EU Parliament vote on a law to restore nature against how the same vote could play out after the 2024 elections.

The EU Parliament passed the law in July by just 12 votes. If the same vote was held after the 2024 elections, based on the projected outcome, the researchers said parties opposed to the law could reject it by 72 votes.

The EU election comes as Europe heads into a challenging stage for its efforts to fight climate change.

The bloc is drafting a 2040 CO2-cutting target and considering the measures to achieve it, which will require far deeper CO2 cuts in politically sensitive sectors including farming.

(Reporting by Kate Abnett; Editing by Jan Harvey)