Belgium misses EU climate plan deadline, blames Flanders

Belgium misses EU climate plan deadline, blames Flanders
Farmers attend a protest action in the European district in Brussels. Credit: Belga / Dirk Waem

Belgium and 22 other EU Member States have failed to submit their climate plans to the European Commission on time. Only Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands met the deadline.

All Member States were legally obliged to submit national energy and climate plans (NECPs) by 30 June as part of the bloc reaching zero emissions by 2050. The majority of Member States may face sanctions for failing to do so.

Climate Minister Zakia Khattabi (Ecolo) says Flanders stalled the national agreement and is therefore responsible for Belgium's delay. The region opposes the current plan approved by Brussels and Wallonia and will not engage in discussion until after it forms a new government (expected to take several months).

"We have done everything possible to submit the Belgian climate plan on time," Khattabi told Belga News Agency. "I therefore regret that the Flemish Government has decided, without consulting the other entities, not to complete its plan before the summer, as a result of which Belgium will miss the European deadline."

Domestic differences

Belgium's NECP has been running behind time for a while. The country submitted its provisional plan on 23 November 2023, missing two separate deadlines. Even then, the proposed figures did not satisfy EU requirements.

This is equally not the first time regional discord has thrown climate legislation into disarray. The EU has just adopted the monumental Nature Restoration Law, but not without extreme difficulties along the way.

Belgium abstained from the final vote due to disagreement between Flanders and Wallonia. The former's political debate is partly defined by agricultural issues such as the Nitrogen Decree, which is viewed as too punitive by farmers – much like an array of other environmental legislation.

Flemish Minister of Environment, Energy, Tourism and Justice Zuhal Demir (N-VA). Credit: Belga / James Arthur Gekiere

By voting against the Nature Restoration Law, the Flemish Government "believes they are doing farmers and industry a favour – but the opposite is true," a spokesperson for MEP Sara Matthieu (Groen) told The Brussels Times.

"The prolonged drought and extreme rains will only get worse with the disappearance of our nature, farmers being the first victims. We also have to green our industry to keep it competitive," the office of the re-elected European MEP said.

"Due to the Flemish boycott of the Nature Restoration Law, Belgium unfortunately had to abstain. After all, unanimity is required in our country."

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