About 150 climate activists on Saturday occupied a site in Antwerp Port where the INEOS petrochemical company plans to produce ethylene and propylene.
The demonstrators called on the Flemish Government to withdraw its backing from the programme, dubbed “Project One,” and, instead, to support projects with a neutral ecological footprint.
The protest action was organised by “Ineos Will Fall,” a group made up of Belgian and foreign associations opposed to the project.
“Ineos Will Fall” sees Project One as “the incarnation par excellence of the poor choices made with regard to the future of Flemish and Belgian industry.” The demonstrators fear the petrochemical giant will use shale gas to produce ethylene and propylene, which are essential for the production of plastic.
An area covering many hectares is scheduled to be cleared of its forests for the project, and this is the site that was occupied on Saturday by the activists.
“The extraction, transport and use of shale gas are extremely polluting and have a considerable social and ecological impact on the communities of the areas where it is extracted,” the collective’s spokesperson, Jasmijn Defize, explained.
“Shale gas fracturing is invariably accompanied by considerable leakage of the powerful greenhouse gas, methane, which has been proved, more and more to be an important factor of global warming,” Defize added.
“Project One” is currently being studied by the Flemish Government, which has to decide whether or not to grant it an environmental permit. The Region gave a first positive opinion last week.
After many small actions yielded no effect, the environmental activists decided to go into higher gear by occupying the site earmarked for the new plant, stressing that they intend to stay there “for a long time.”
The collective’s members also denounce the fact that Flanders will probably subsidise the project. They reject the argument that it will create jobs. “If the Government wishes to invest in job security, it needs to do so in circular businesses and sectors that are climate neutral,” they argue.
“Citizens are being urged to make eco-gestures, but if governments continue to favour fossil industries and authorise the production of still more plastic, little will change,” one activist said.