Minister feels “strengthened” by climate protest pupils

The Flemish Environment Minister Joke Schauvliege (Christian democrat) has said in an interview with VRT radio that she is grateful to the many thousands of young people that have taken to the streets to protest for more measures to combat climate change.   

On Thursday around 35,000 secondary school pupils payed truant from school to protest for more ambitious  measures to combat climate change. This was almost 20,000 more than a week earlier. The teenagers plan to continue their weekly demonstration until the elections in May.

"It is nice to see that so many young people are making a commitment and getting involved”.

"I am also very pleased that the younger generation wants to take responsibility”, Ms Schauvliege added.

"The success of climate policy doesn’t only depend on measures that are imposed from above. We must ensure that everyone realises that we can all make a difference, both law-makers and citizens we should use this as a lever”, Mr Minister said.    

The youngsters that took part in Thursday’s demonstration believe that politicians aren’t doing enough. However, Ms Schauvliege is keen to stress that the Flemish Government has already taken a lot of measures and that more measure are on the way to help us reach the European climate objectives. Nevertheless, extra measures will be required and the measures that will need to be taken won’t always be popular.      

"A lot of courage will be required if we want to meet the ambitious targets by 2050”.

The Flemish Climate Plan aims to reduce emissions by 40% by 2030. However, these targets will not suffice if global warming is to be kept below 1.5°C.

Ms Schauvliege says that the Flemish Government has taken additional measures, including investing 440 million euro in a climate fund. This will be used to pay for measures to reduce emissions such as insolating social housing.  

Nevertheless, she concedes that more could have been done.

Ms Schauvliege would have liked to have introduced a deposit system for plastic bottles and cans. However, this proposal is not supported by all of the coalition. The Minister is also in favour of a tax on airline tickets as she believes that they are too cheap.