Green Deal demands more ambitious Belgian climate policy

Flanders risks losing half a billion of public funds in fines for substandard climate policy. Without a rapid and major shift to rail, the targets will be completely infeasible in the coming decades .

Belgium, but Flanders in particular, needs to conduct a much more ambitious climate policy. If not, Flanders risks losing half a billion of public funds in fines. Certainly now that the EU Green Deal is promising a binding climate law.

This half a billion must be urgently invested in our transition economy towards a carbon free society. If not, we risk leaving this to our neighbouring countries and we will suffer huge economic losses.

The transition towards a carbon free transport sector with greater focus on green freight traffic must be central to this. Although green passenger transport is important, focus on trucks that cause 10% of all carbon emissions in Belgium is lacking. Under current policy these emissions will rise 26% by 2030, which is 35% above the 2030 Paris target, which the Green Deal has further increased to between 45% and 50%. And this is despite the desired electrification of a quarter of our trucks, which is highly unlikely, with costs running into billions.

A major shift to rail, which emits nine times less CO2, is needed quickly. This is the only way of making our climate targets feasible.

This shift is possible if the government takes the following measures:

  • Transport companies must be encouraged to transfer freight from lorry to rail sooner. This can be done by reimbursing this transfer cost and supporting investment in the necessary infrastructure (e.g. cranes).
  • Rail companies must be encouraged to provide high frequency connections between ports, industrial areas and terminals.
  • The costs of running trains on the Belgian rail network must be halved, as it is in our neighbouring countries.
  • Infrabel must not only manage the railway network but, just like in the neighbouring countries, it must be given the task of actively optimising the goods flows on the railways.

Although these measures cost money, they actually represent a big saving for our country. Not only by avoiding fines, but mainly because the damage that road traffic is currently costing our society is far higher. With a special freight traffic investment of EUR 100 million per annum in the measures above, we will avoid up to EUR 675 million in societal costs.

A major shift to rail is needed for the climate, for the environment, for reduced congestion, and for the economy. It is high time this intervention took place.

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