De Wever’s starting-note burries kilometer tax indefinitely
In his seven-pages-long starting note to assist negotiations for a new Flemish government, Bart De Wever limits the ‘climate ambitions’ to achieving the ‘sky-high’ goals already set. But at the same time, he sees a role for Flanders to become a front runner in Europe in hydrogen and the ‘City of Things.’ About a kilometer tax for cars, he remains silent as the grave.
It is no secret that De Wever, being president of Flanders largest political party N-VA, isn’t an unconditional supporter of the climate movement, embodied in Belgium by young Anuna De Wever (no family), the peer of Swedish Greta Thunberg.
Realistic flesh out
Of the 27 recommendations for the government in the Youth4Climate plan, the movement asked 100 scientists to contribute to, is little or no trace in the starting note. Nothing like banning all vehicles on fossil fuel from 2030, starting with buses already in 2022, or trams every 7,5 minutes and trains every 30 minutes.
Bart De Wever keeps with his known position that the goals for 2050 set by the Paris Agreement and Europe are already more than ambitious enough and will be tough to achieve. “He pleads for a ‘realistic’ flesh out of the plan. “Let’s do that first before setting new goals,” he suggests.
World reference in innovation
As it is only a ‘starting note’ for negotiations with two other political parties, CD&V and Open-VLD, who are part of the outgoing Flemish government today, the text is rather vague on climate goals and mobility. De Wever keeps on counting on technology and innovation to create a paradigm shift, rather than taxes and bans.
“We want to make Flanders a world reference in innovation, digital transformation, and technology,” he states. One of the things he wants to achieve is extending the City of Things (CoT) research project the Louvain technology lab Imec is conducting with the city of Antwerp (where De Wever is mayor), to the whole of Flanders.
Large infrastructural works
The latter goes from predicting floodings with sensors in sewers and watercourses to visualizing all traffic flows in the city, over electronics in the city with smart lighting to smart bicycle lights, the Intellocity project for ‘intelligent’ last-mile delivery of packages or highways suited for autonomous cars.
Mobility-specific measures are the intention to beef up investments in extensive infrastructural works to tackle traffic jams, but also more bicycle paths, investments in railways, and other public transport and inland waterways, among others.
Focus on commuter traffic
He says the focus will be on commuter traffic and school traffic, which both have to be ‘sustainable’ for at least 40%, even 50% in metropolitan areas, like Brussels, Antwerp or Ghent. How to do that is left at the reader’s imagination, except for mentioning that ‘multimodal’ commuting will be crucial, as is the ‘greening’ of the car fleet. Mobility as a Service is known to be one of the things De Wever and his Alderman for Mobility in Antwerp, Koen Kennis (N-VA), strongly believe in.
There is no word, though, about a kilometer tax for cars, which used to be one of the pet notions of N-VA Minister for Mobility, Ben Weyts. The latter made a 180-degree U-turn in April just before the elections, after finding out ‘there is no social basis with the general public for this.’
Front runner in hydrogen
Another remarkable sentence in De Wever’s starting note is: “We have the ambition to become Europe’s front runner in hydrogen and will dedicate ourselves to a 100% circular economy”.
With at the moment only one public hydrogen filling station in Flanders (Air Liquide, Zaventem) and only a handful of Toyota Mirais or Hyundai Nexos driving around – the only ones available to buy – there is still some way to go.