A new Federal Government: a turning point
On October 1, after almost 500 days of negotiations, a new Belgian Federal Government took office. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the new Government now has the daunting task of relaunching the badly affected economy. Indeed, the Belgian economy is predicted to shrink by 9% with a deficit above 10% of GDP in 2020 (i.e. around €46 billion).
Despite the economic downturn, the new Government has shown its strong commitment to a green and sustainable economic recovery. Following the guidelines set by the European Green Deal, and with strong support from citizens for a more environmentally friendly economy, the Government has announced that it aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Belgium by 55% by 2030 and to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.
As both Belgian citizens and the EU provide strong support for sustainability, now is the moment for Belgium to adopt ambitious policies for the transition towards a sustainable and competitive economy and for businesses in Belgium to reap the benefits of the Green Deal.
Business support for a green economy
Although the immediate challenges resulting from the COVID-19 crisis will require comprehensive resources from policymakers and businesses alike, stakeholders have voiced their strong commitment to the ambitious targets of the European Green Deal.
In Belgium, the private sector has also given strong support for a more sustainable economy. VOKA, Flanders' Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has emphasized that a smart and circular economy would generate €2.3 billion in added value and 27,000 new jobs. The Federation of Belgian Enterprises (FEB-VBO) urges the authorities to promote a more efficient and smarter mobility, renewable energy production, and to support industry’s green transformation, enabling Belgium to recover and become a competitive and sustainable economy.
Four sectors to watch
The European Green Deal has set the global objective of creating a sustainable and green European economy. To do so, the EU has adopted a series of ambitious strategies for its Member States to fulfill. Based on the current climate, we have identified four crucial sectors in Belgium which will be most impacted by the EU Green Deal:
- Construction: a transition toward more energy efficient buildings
- EU Green Deal target: 55% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (below 1990 levels) and carbon neutrality by 2050.
- Belgian policy target: The Government aims to create a public investment fund and will cooperate with the regions to renovate the aging Belgian housing stock.
- Energy: a shift toward renewable energy
- EU Green Deal target: 32% of renewable energy by 2030.
- Belgian policy target: The Government plans on doubling the offshore wind energy capacity, invest publicly in renewable energy and upgrade the energy infrastructure.
- Transportation: new mobility and freight solutions
- EU Green Deal target: reduction of 90% of greenhouse gas emissions from transportation & optimization of railways and waterways for freight.
- Belgian policy target: The Government will phase out the sale of vehicles that do not meet zero emission standards, provide more financing for rail transport and infrastructure and improve inland navigation.
- Agri-food: sustainable and environmentally conscious agriculture
- EU Green Deal target: 25% of organic farms by 2030 & promotion of sustainable and environmentally conscious agriculture.
- Belgian policy target: The Government will support innovation to substitute the use of phytopharmaceutics and pesticides in agriculture, and it commits to maintaining the competitiveness of the agri-food sector.
Businesses should seize the opportunities from the Green Deal
Europe and Belgium will continue to set ambitious environmental and sustainability goals. To benefit from this new economic and political reality, businesses will need to adapt their strategies and narratives around the following guidelines:
- Understanding the seismic shift of the EU Green Deal and adopting a new economic model to drive and benefit in this evolving business environment.
- Navigating and understanding the complexity of the different policy portfolios being shared between the Federal Government and the regions in Belgium and interacting efficiently with relevant stakeholders.
- Developing an integrated strategic communication and public affairs strategy at both regional, national and European levels.
About the authors
Sarah Bouckaert, Public Affairs Manager, Weber Shandwick
Sarah is a public affairs and corporate communications expert with a background in European politics, advocacy and integrated communication. She has four years of experience in public affairs, reputation management and crisis communications, and served several clients in the healthcare, tech and finance sector. At Weber Shandwick, she works on public and corporate affairs for Novartis, AveXis, Ericsson, Galapagos, UnifiedPost Group and VLAM, among others.
Lauren Heeffer, Corporate Affairs Associate Director, Weber Shandwick
Lauren is a strategic communications expert with a background in journalism, political communications and corporate communications. With eight years of experience working in communications, both as consultant and in-house consultant, Lauren has gathered a significant track record in B2B and healthcare corporate communications and reputation building. She heads the Belgian corporate affairs practice and specializes in corporate reputation, crisis management and public affairs.