Flemish environment minister faces backlash after saying she will ‘plane-pool’ to COP25
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Flemish environment minister faces backlash after saying she will ‘plane-pool’ to COP25

Flemish Environment Minister Zuhal Demir said she will fly to the COP25 climate summit in Madrid. Credit: Belga

Flanders’ environment minister will not be joining her Walloon counterparts on their train ride to the UN’s COP25 climate summit in Madrid opting instead to fly, or “plane-pool”, to the conference.

“I don’t want to bother anyone. I will go by ‘plane-pooling’ to Madrid with others,” Zuhal Demir said in a Tweet on Tuesday, on the second day of the climate summit in which leaders are under pressure from civil society and youth movements to take bold action to fight climate change.

Her tweet follows an interview on Radio 1 in which she said she would be flying to the conference, explaining that, in the image of car-pooling, “plane-pooling” aims to cushion a plane ride’s carbon footprint by putting as many people as possible and “preventing the plane leaves with empty seats.”

The N-VA’s Flemish environment minister’s announcement sparked strong condemnation from users on the social platform, with one calling her out for essentially attempting to “greenwash” her choice to simply fly to the summit, adding that it showed a “clear” disregard for the environment.

“Sorry, but that is ‘greenwashing’. Dare to make clear that you are choosing the plane because of the benefits such as time saving (and perhaps also costs), and that you consider the environmental impact less important,” the user wrote.

Several other replies to the ministers’ announcement said it was “hypocritical” and “a joke,” with one writing she should be “deeply ashamed” over it.

One tweet asking whether the minister had at least opted to buy off the CO2 compensation from her flight was the only one out of the over 50 tweets to earn a reply from Demir, who wrote: “I will indeed do CO2 compensation.”

Demir’s announcement comes after one of the leading figures of Belgium’s youth climate movement, Anuna De Wever, who is currently in Martinique, said she would be skipping the climate conference because she did not want to take plane, saying in an interview with HLN that she regretted missing out on looking Demir “in the eye.”

De Wever, 18, was one of several European youth climate activists whose transatlantic trip to attend the COP25, originally set to take place in Chile, was curtailed mid-way after the country was forced to pull the plug on the event due to a violent crackdown on social unrest rocking the capital Santiago.

Demir’s use of “plane-pooling” as an attempt to compensate emissions-heavy transportations comes after MEP and former Belgian premier, Guy Verhofstadt, recurred to it alongside other top EU officials, including Jean-Claude Juncker in 2007 for the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon.

One day before the conference kicked off, De Wever called on leaders of all countries to “show responsibility” and to not “betray all future generations.”

The COP25 in Madrid will gather nearly 200 different world leaders, including EU leaders and member states’ heads of state. Belgian environmental advocates expect federal and regional leaders to increase financing efforts for environmental measures, and namely a doubling of Belgium’s contribution to the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times

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