23rd Apr 2021

Belgian authorities sued over 'inadequate' green targets

  • All the Belgian government's climate targets so far are non-binding (Photo: Jeanne Menjoulet)

A Belgian environmental NGO is taking the Belgian, Flemish, Brussels and Walloon governments to court for breaching their climate obligations - arguing that inadequate climate policy constitutes a violation of standard of care, and human and children's rights.

The oral hearings before the initial court in Brussels started on Tuesday (16 March) and will last nine days.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

In 2015, the NGO, Klimaatzaak [Climate Case], filed a claim with the court challenging the "inadequate" climate policies of the Belgian government - a move supported by some 62,000 citizens who were calling for more ambitious climate policies.

The case initially got held up in court over a language dispute, which was solved in early 2018.

"We cannot keep saying that the [green] transition is not feasible. We have a very strong case today," one of the founders of Klimaatzaak, Francesca Vanthielen, told Het Belang van Limburg newspaper.

As in the Urgenda case in the Netherlands, the plaintiffs demand that the governments reduce the country's greenhouse gas emissions by at least 42 percent by 2025 and by at least 55 percent by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels) - with zero net-emissions in 2050.

"This demand is a translation into the Belgian context of the climate science insights on what is needed to prevent dangerous global warming exceeding 1.5 degrees," they argue.

According to an assessment of the European Commission, Belgium will fail to meet the 2030 target, which was then still a 35 percent emission cut - although it is set to be increased.

Meanwhile, all climate targets that the government has committed to so far are, in fact, non-binding under Belgian law.

After a continuous decline from 2004 to 2014, emissions in Belgium have been relatively stable.

Additionally, the claimants are seeking a penalty payment of €1m for every month that the authorities delay enforcing the judgment.

Last weekend, activists protested in several cities and towns across the country to draw attention to the court case initiated by Klimaatzaak.

In Brussels, a flashmob broke into dance on Mont des Arts, while hundreds gathered in Ghent to held a minute of silence for the climate.

"In these exceptional times we never expected so many people would embark upon the difficult procedure currently required in order to stage a protest," says coordinator Sarah Tak in a statement from the group Gents MilieuFront, which is supporting the case.

In December 2019, the Dutch climate organisation Urgenda won a similar case, which led to an ambitious package of proposals to cut emissions.

After a seven-year legal battle, the Dutch government was forced to reduce national emissions by at least 25 percent (compared to 1990) by the end of 2020.

That landmark case set high standards on climate litigation in European courts, inspiring similar cases across the bloc.


Dutch case opens new era for climate-change litigation

Legal action related to climate change is set to grow considerably in the next few years - especially after a largely-overlooked ruling over Christmas by a Dutch court forced the government to reduce its emission by 25 percent by 2020.

EU defers decision on gas and nuclear as 'green' energy

The European Commission has laid out rules classifying industrial logging and the burning of trees and crops for energy as 'sustainable' investments. Decisions on whether to also list gas and nuclear energy as 'sustainable' investments will be made later.

EU negotiators strike deal on climate 'law of laws'

The European Parliament and the European Council reached an agreement on the first-ever EU climate law - raising the current 2030 emission-reduction target from 40 percent to around 55 percent (including carbon sinks).

News in Brief

  1. Golden backdoor to EU exposed in Malta
  2. India hits 1m infections in four days
  3. Report: Biden to call out Turkey on 1915 Armenia 'genocide'
  4. Putin threatens West with Cold-War geometry
  5. Coronavirus: Japan to declare state of emergency in Tokyo
  6. Navalny must now be treated abroad, UN experts say
  7. World body stigmatises Syria for gassing own people
  8. Hungary to tweak NGO and university law after EU rulings

Revealed: the new lobbying effort to deregulate GMOs

An investigation by Corporate Europe Observatory has uncovered how new lobbying strategies, aimed at deregulating modern genetic techniques are driven by academic and biotech research institutes with corporate interests - utilising 'climate-friendly' narratives.

'Marked divergences' remain in CAP reform showdown

The 'super trialogue' on the knotty issue of Common Agriculture Policy reform later this week aims to give a rough approximation of the different institutions positions. However, there are still big differences between national capitals and the European Parliament.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. Chemical-weapons vote reveals 'friends of Syria' axis
  2. Russia should pay 'costs' for Czech attack, US says
  3. Merkel 'open' to EU treaty change on health
  4. EU seeks global AI leadership with new rules
  5. EU defers decision on gas and nuclear as 'green' energy
  6. After China ban, Romania hit by illegal waste imports
  7. Hungary: Why we oppose carbon price, but back gas
  8. EU negotiators strike deal on climate 'law of laws'

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us