In a throwback to the pandemic days, Belgium's Consultative Committee will meet today to discuss the energy crisis that Belgium and most of the Western world is ensnared in. The meeting's main aim will be to reduce the burden on households already staggering under the growing weight of exorbitant energy bills.
Yet with Belgium unable to implement more structural price caps (these must be set at the EU level) and the country's gas reserves far from sufficient to guarantee winter supply, the prognosis is bleak.
This much was clear when Alexander De Croo last week made the grim prediction that "The next five to ten winters will be difficult" – a unusually frank statement conspicuous for its lack of sugar-coating. The Prime Minister's subsequent reassurances that "Belgian spirit" would carry us through sounded hollow, more like political afterthoughts than words we can put faith in.
Five to ten years is venturing into the political long-term. Between now and then will fall elections and contestants for the premiership will inevitably promise more than they can deliver. Crises have a habit of shortening outlooks to tomorrow – the thought of waiting patiently for circumstances to improve is a thinly-veiled admission of the government's inability to prevent years of hardship.
What is becoming clear is that short-term measures to curb fossil-fuel consumption can't just become the new normal. Boosting green energies can't happen quickly enough but by nature, these are weather dependent and will require enormous investment at a time when public funds are already being carved out.
Alongside the massive steps Europe must take to become more energy-efficient (sobriety is the sector-wide buzz-word), it is fast becoming apparent that there's a nuclear elephant in the room that might be our best bet if we're to have any chance of honouring climate commitments whilst also preventing an interminable winter of energy shortages.
It is unfortunate that the green political movements have become conflated with anti-nuclear policy, often reminiscent of Cold War era CND movements (it is perfectly possible to be pro-nuclear energy and also in favour of nuclear disarmament). Yet many of the arguments weaponized by "green" politicians against nuclear energy fail to point out that the fossil alternatives which must inevitably supply the energy needs that green infrastructure cannot are a far greater environmental and health hazard than the nuclear option.
We elect politicians for their idealism but we remember them for their pragmatism. Belgium is in desperate need of a robust action plan: ruling out nuclear simply isn't an option.
What are your expectations for today's Consultative Committee? Let @Orlando_tbt know.
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