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Climate change is hot topic in the European Parliament vote

/ 04:59 PM May 24, 2019

LANGEOOG, Germany – Hungry tourists stream into the glass-fronted balcony of Michael Recktenwald’s restaurant on the German island of Langeoog, with its splendid view of the North Sea and the blue skies above.

The 49-year-old has lived on Langeoog for most of his life, and his wife’s family has been there for generations, but Recktenwald fears their children may not be able to stay if the world keeps on warming.

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Concerns about climate change have prompted mass protests across Europe for the past year.

For the first time, the issue is expected to have a significant impact on this week’s elections for the European Parliament.

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 Climate change is hot topic in the European Parliament vote

In this photo taken on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, Susanne Hasenpflug takes dogs on a tour on her bicycle on the car-free environmental island of Langeoog in the North Sea, Germany. Concerns about climate change have prompted mass protests across Europe for the past year and are expected to draw tens of thousands onto the streets again Friday, May 24. For the first time, the issue is predicted to have a significant impact on this week’s elections for the European Parliament. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Recktenwald pointed to the damaged levees protecting the island, which is part of the Frisian Archipelago off the coasts of Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark. Islands like Langeoog are among the regions most vulnerable to the rising sea levels predicted to result from climate change.

“The sea level has already risen and storm surges are getting more violent,” he told The Associated Press.

“The chain of dunes is being attacked more strongly, endangering our freshwater supply.”

A recent opinion poll in Germany showed that climate change has overtaken immigration as the issue voters in the EU’s most populous nation are most concerned about. Elsewhere across the EU, climate change also features prominently among the top issues — along with immigration and the economy — ahead of the European Parliament vote that began Thursday and runs through Sunday in all of the bloc’s 28 nations.

“In many countries, the climate issue has become increasingly one of the top issues that voters are concerned about when they talk about European issues,” said Derek Beach, a political scientist at the University of Aarhus, Denmark.

“In Denmark, for example, this year it’s really almost the only issue that people are talking about in relation to the European Parliament election.”

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg inspired a ‘Fridays for Future’ school strikes movement in her native Sweden that’s spread across Europe, bringing tens of thousands to the streets demanding faster action on climate change.

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The Extinction Rebellion direct action group upended traffic across London for days to press the point.

Both cite spiking temperature records and dramatic warnings from scientists as reasons to act now to fight global warming.

Yet what remains an abstract threat to most Europeans has become very real to Recktenwald.

“We’re directly affected,” he said, walking past beachgoers enjoying the sun from behind the wicker windbreaks that are a signature of German coastal resorts.

Together with eight other families elsewhere in the world and a Scandinavian youth group, the Recktenwalds launched a legal action to force the European Union to set more ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

A court rejected their case on procedural grounds Wednesday, but the plaintiffs plan to appeal.

In the meantime, Recktenwald — who doesn’t belong to any political party — is hoping that European leaders listen to voters who want their governments and the EU to take decisive action against global warming.

Parties that have traditionally championed environmental causes, such as the Greens in Germany, are well-placed to benefit from the growing concern about climate change.

The party clocked an unprecedented 19% support in Germany in a survey published last week, overtaking the center-left Social Democrats that are part of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing coalition.

“We are very optimistic that we will achieve the largest parliamentary group we have ever had in the European Parliament,” said Ska Keller, one of two leading candidates for the European Greens. /gg

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