The Flemish government has adopted the updated Flemish Energy and Climate Plan (VEKP). To meet the target of -40% greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, the government is taking additional measures, including extending the truck kilometer charge and a support mechanism for new and second-hand zero-emission vehicles. However, the Transport Federations regret that kilometer charging for passenger cars is omitted.
Now also charges in port areas
In transport, there will be an extension of the kilometer charge for trucks. The charge will also apply in port areas and on certain shortcuts. One such well-known shortcut is the Limburg North-South connection. At the same time, zero-emissions trucks over 3,5 tons will be exempted from the charge. There will be no kilometer charge for passenger cars – a proposal by the liberal party Open Vld.
However, there will be a support mechanism for certain new or second-hand zero-emission cars and for shared mobility providers. For which cars there will be premiums and how high they will be is not yet fixed.
Flemish Mobility Minister Lydia Peeters (Open Vld) is having a scheme worked out for this. Together with her colleague and Energy Minister Zuhal Demir (N-VA), she also wants to stimulate emission-free distribution in urban centers so that “from 2025, city centers can be supplied emission-free”.
‘Trucks only responsible for 5% of CO2 emissions’
The transport federations are disappointed that the VEKP once again provides a kilometer charge only for trucks and that passenger cars are spared. “It would have been much more efficient to introduce a kilometer charge for all vehicles,” says Isabelle De Maegt, spokesperson for Febetra, the federation of Belgian haulers and logistic service providers. “We represent only a small part of traffic.”
Off all the sectors involved, the transport sector in Belgium is the one that produces the most greenhouse gases. It is also one of the few sectors of which emissions have increased over the past 30 years. This increase is largely due to road transport, which accounted for 98,1% of total land transport emissions in 2019.
According to the Belgian car and two-wheeler federation Febiac, transport accounts for about 25% of CO2 emissions. Of that, 25% attributable to transport, air, and shipping accounted for 7%, and road transport 18%; 10% for passenger cars, 3% for vans, and 5% for trucks.
“If you want to pursue an effective climate policy, I think a kilometer charge for all vehicles will have to be part of it,” says Frederic Keymeulen of Transport and Logistics in Flanders (TLV). “But politicians lack the courage to say we must do this anyway.”
Still a taboo
The extension of the measure to include shortcuts is received less negatively. However, there are reservations about that, too. “If there are no alternatives, then this seems to be just another source of revenue for the government anyway, ” Keymeulen says. “It would, therefore, seem only logical to me should the government allow that money to flow back to the sector, for example, by investing in better roads or infrastructure.”
Finally, Febetra regrets that the plans to adjust the kilometer charge were “not taken in consultation with the sector”.
Voka also endorses the transport federations’ criticism. The Flemish network of companies finds it “regrettable that an obvious and impactful measure such as the smart kilometer charge for passenger cars is not being introduced and remains taboo”.
For your information: As of Saturday, 1 July 2023, new tariffs for the kilometer charge will apply in Flanders, Brussels, and Wallonia.
Subsidies of up to 40% for zero-emission trucks
Regarding the exemption of zero-emission trucks from the kilometer charge, Ferias does respond with satisfaction. “That will boost sales and narrow the gap with Germany, for example,” says Director Public Affairs Kris Gysels of the automobile federation.
“Together with the federal investment deduction and the Flemish ecology premium, the purchase of an emission-free truck will be supported up to about 40%, but in Germany, it is as high as 80%,” says Gysels. “In the Netherlands, too, this is much higher than ours, but this will still narrow the gap. This will make the purchase of zero-emission trucks more attractive over the next five years. That is an important step.”
While the exemption from road pricing is announced as a temporary measure, Febiac hopes it will be kept for as long as possible.
In addition, Febiac welcomes the incentive mechanism for purchasing new and second-hand zero-emission passenger cars. However, it remains to be seen until the Flemish budget is drafted this autumn how much it will amount to.
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