A court in Belgium has ruled that emissions must be reduced by 55% compared to 1990 levels.
A court in Belgium has deemed the nation’s climate goals as “clearly inadequate” and has instructed the government to reduce emissions at a quicker pace.
The Brussels court of appeal has granted a significant win for climate activists by ruling that Belgium must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 55% from 1990 levels by the year 2030. As of 2021, Belgium had only managed to decrease its emissions by 24%.
The court dismissed claims that Belgium’s contribution to the climate crisis was insignificant due to its small size and determined that its past climate management had violated human rights.
Zakia Khattabi, the Federal climate minister, said in a post on X that the judgment – together with the European Commission’s expected response to Belgium’s national climate and energy plan – “constitute levers to strengthen and give credibility to our climate policies”.
The nonprofit organization Klimaatzaak initiated a court case on behalf of over 58,000 claimants, which has been ongoing for several years in Belgium’s legal system. The recent ruling further supports a previous decision that deemed Belgium’s climate policy insufficient, and now requires the government to accelerate their efforts in reducing emissions.
The governments are now required to establish a target of at least 55% by 2030, which is a higher level of ambition than their current obligation of 47% under EU effort-sharing regulations.
Researchers caution that the proposed goal may not be sufficient in preventing severe weather from becoming increasingly intense. In a study conducted by the Grantham Institute in March, it was determined that Belgium would need to reduce its emissions by at least 61% by 2030 in order to prevent global temperatures from rising 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, which is the target set by world leaders. If carbon emissions were to be distributed evenly among the world’s population, Belgium’s reduction efforts would need to be even more significant, reaching 81% by 2030.
Last month, Khattabi spoke to the Guardian and acknowledged the urgency of taking swift action based on scientific evidence. Despite her conviction, she acknowledged the constraints of the political landscape and expressed satisfaction if the goal of 55% is achieved.
Khattabi stated that due to our institutional framework, it is challenging to establish a nationwide law regarding climate. The majority of environmental and climate policies fall under the jurisdiction of individual regions. Our focus should be on supporting the efforts of these regions.
Global leaders have convened in Dubai for the Cop28 conference to negotiate agreements regarding the prevention of climate change, adjusting to its consequences, and providing compensation for its harm.
Belgians, on an individual basis, rank among the top polluters globally. However, their efforts to improve their economy’s environmental impact have not kept pace with those of neighboring countries. The Netherlands is aiming for a 49% decrease in emissions by the end of the next decade, while France is targeting 50%, Germany 65%, and the UK a 68% reduction.
Although some may criticize Belgium, many scientists have lauded the country for its expansive offshore wind energy facilities and initiatives to switch company vehicles to electric power. These efforts play a crucial role in reducing emissions in the transportation industry.
Khattabi expressed her desire for civil society and industry to exert pressure in order to accelerate political changes. She stated, “I spend my week on the ground meeting with industries and companies that are making progress. Fortunately, they are moving faster than politics.”