Climate coalition protests against Flemish Government in Brussels

Climate coalition protests against Flemish Government in Brussels
The "limbo dance" of the Klimaatcoalitie climate action group meant to show how low the bar is for the Flemish government in terms of emissions reduction. Credit: Belga / Timon Ramboer

A national coalition of anti-climate change organisations, Klimaatcoalitie, carried out a protest action against the Flemish Government’s climate policy on Friday outside the government's cabinet offices in Brussels.

"The Flemish Government’s bar is still very low," said Klimaatcoalitie spokesperson Joeri Thijs during the action, referring to the goals of reducing carbon emissions.

According to the associations, Flanders is doing too little to combat climate change. “We have come here today to do the limbo dance, in a playful action that illustrates the low ambition of this Flemish Government,” Thijs said.

"The (limbo) bar illustrates the Flemish Government’s low climate ambition. We want to laugh a bit about it, but it is enough to make you cry."

According to Klimaatcoalitie, the Flemish Government is not listening to what climate scientists and experts are saying.

"Europe expects this from our country and Flanders. But we see that Flanders is the only one holding back and only wants to do the 'feasible and affordable'. We think that is a smokescreen to justify their low climate ambition," added Thijs.

"We agree, it has to be feasible and affordable. But you cannot make that just a slogan. You have to put concrete measures in return that are going to support families to keep up with this climate transition," Thijs said.

The European Union has set a target for member states to reduce CO2 emissions. To achieve that, Belgium and other member states must emit 47% less greenhouse gases by 2030; Flanders is aiming to emit 40% less by 2030.

Credit: Belga / Timon Ramboer

According to the Klimaatcoalitie, a 40% reduction in net emissions by Flanders is "optimistic".

"An initial analysis of their plans only added up to 31.5 per cent. Especially in the area of mobility, there is a gap between measures and expected results," said Zanna Vanrenterghem, Vice-President of Klimaatcoalitie.

"While our neighbouring countries have recently introduced bold new climate measures, the Flemish Government shrugs its shoulders as if there is no problem. That is not only unfair but also, economically, a bad choice," Vanrenterghem added.

The impacts of climate change are already being felt around the world, and Joeri Thijs notes that Belgium is no exception.

"Farmers are already seeing the impact of the drought in Flanders, which costs us more than €2 million. Families have also seen their houses flooded in recent years. That impact is already here today and only threatens to increase," Thijs states.

Marleen De Vry, the spokesperson for Grandparents for Climate, also condemned the Flanders climate policy.

"They are mopping up, but with the tap running. Giving a €500 million guarantee to petrochemical company Ineos does not stimulate any behavioural change in the companies at all...These are solutions of the past," De Vry said.

The Flemish Government wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the region by 85% by 2050, as stated in the 2050 climate strategy approved in 2019. "Only by 2050. I won’t be around then, but my children and grandchildren will," De Vry said.

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An organisation representing the climate and environmental movements in Belgium, is equally pessimistic about the Flemish Government’s policy and the protections they aim to put up for citizens against climate change.

"The Flemish Government is not making it feasible and affordable. The government and [Environment] Minister Demir forget that they themselves hold the keys to making change possible," said Angelos Koutsis of Bond Beter Leefmilieu.

"They give almost no funds to people who cannot afford to make their homes energy efficient. The Flemish Government must ensure that these people too are protected from prices in the next energy crisis, and do not become dependent on autocratic regimes."

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