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A girl displays a banner during a climate change protest in Huddersfield, England, Feb. 15, 2019. Chanting "Save our Planet!" thousands of students around Britain rallied to demand that Britain's Conservative government take action on climate change.
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Environment

Young Voters Across Europe Led to a 'Green Wave' to Fight for Climate Action


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Green parties have just had their strongest ever showing in the European elections, in what’s being celebrated by Green politicians and environmental activists as a “Green wave.” 

Of the 751-seat assembly, the European Green parties will be taking 69 seats, according to the European Parliament’s election results webpage. That’s compared to the 52 seats taken by the Greens in the 2014 elections. 

The trend — which was mainly seen in urban areas and among young voters — is being attributed to a significant spike in the public’s interest in topics like plastic pollution and climate change. 

“This is a mandate for real change: for climate protection, a social Europe, more democracy, and a stronger rule of law,” said Ska Keller, a German Green MEP and co-convenor of the Green group in the European parliament, at a press conference in Brussels. 

“For us it’s a big task and a great responsibility to now put [voters’] trust into concrete action to concrete climate protection, into promotion of the social Europe, as well as democracy in the rule of law, here into practice in the European parliament,” she added. 

She highlighted that “this is not a thing of just one country, but we can really see it all over the European Union … that the Green Wave has really spread all over Europe.” 

And, according to Greenpeace EU spokesperson Laura Ullmann, the elections showed that "change is coming." 

"Europeans care about the future of European democracy and about the existential environmental threats we face," she added. "Voters have turned out in the largest numbers in over 20 years, and millions of people — young and old — have been taking to the streets to demand a socially just Europe that takes drastic action to prevent climate breakdown." 

"The EU must act now," she said. "There's no time to waste." 

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The uplift of Green votes was biggest in Germany, according to the Guardian, where Die Grünen finished second behind Angela Merkel’s CDU party with 20% of the vote, about double their 2014 total. 

Among young voters in Germany — those aged 18 to 24 — the showing was even higher, with about 34% voting Green compared to 11% of votes for the CDU. 

In Finland, Greens came in second with 16% of the vote, reported the Guardian; and in France, Europe Écologie-Les Verts earned a surprise third place with 13.3%, up from 8.9%. Among young voters, Les Verts came top with 22% of votes. 

In the UK, the Green party came in fourth with 11% of the vote, following the Brexit Party (31.7%), the Lib Dems (18.5%) and Labour (14.1%). The Conservatives came in fifth with just 8.7% of the vote.  

In Ireland, the Green vote trebled in comparison with the 2014 elections, from 5% to 15%. And in Portugal, a Green party reportedly won its first ever European parliamentary seat. 

Meanwhile, Green parties also scored high in Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Austria, and Luxembourg, reported the Guardian

The uptick in Green votes across Europe follows high-profile environmental action from activists and campaigners, such as the global Fridays for Future movement led by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, and the Extinction Rebellion protests that swept the UK in April. 

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Philippe Lamberts, the other co-convenor of the group, said: “We have begun to see that all of our competitors are beginning to speak about ecological policies and Green policies and so things have changed.” 

The European Green party is reportedly made up of 30 national parties — which are generally pro-EU and left-leaning, on top of their environmental support.

The three key principles of the Green alliance are: climate action, civil liberties, and social justice, according to Keller. She added that, in order to get the support of the Greens, any parliamentary group would have to “deliver” on these core principles.

Meanwhile, Dutch MEP Bas Eickhout said that the surge in Green votes indicated that climate change has “rocketed up people’s priorities.”