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In the European Union and around the world, green policy is becoming increasingly important, placing environmental protection as a core principle of states’ politics and economics.
Aware of the issues associated with global warming, the green economy is both an environmental and economic priority for Belgium.
Demonstrating the country’s strong commitment in the sector is its strong political and financial support for UNEP (the United Nations Environment Programme)’s work to accelerate the transition to resource-efficient and sustainable economies.
In fact, Belgium has been one of the top 10 global contributors to the Environment Fund since 1973, as well as one of the few member states making multi-year commitments to UNEP’s core funding.
A big help to the country’s internal green transition comes from European cohesion policy funding, thanks to which Belgium will receive nearly 3 billion euros in the period 2021-2027 to accelerate its green and digital transition and support the development of a competitive, innovative and inclusive economy.
These funds are being used in the country to grant aid to businesses to support the costs necessary for a green transition for them.
One of the most effective methods by which Belgium is building a more sustainable society is the circular economy. The latter is in fact a production and consumption model that involves sharing, lending, reusing, repairing, reconditioning and recycling existing materials and products for as long as possible.
In this way, the life cycle of products is extended and waste creation is dramatically reduced. In fact, once the product has completed its function, the materials from which it is made are reintroduced into the economic cycle wherever possible. Thus they can be continuously reused within the production cycle, generating additional value. The federal government and the three autonomous regions (Brussels-Capital, Wallonia and Flanders) are all aligned in this effort.
NATIONAL AND REGIONAL GREEN POLICIES
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Belgian environmental legislation is primarily based on the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and implementing directives and regulations. The same applies to the statutes of the 3 regions, which are almost exclusively responsible for environmental issues. However, the federal authority remains competent for some areas.
Naturally, regions and the federal government cooperate closely on energy and climate policy and coordinate their efforts through various forums, including:
– the coordination committee for international environmental policy (Coördinatiecomité Internationaal Milieubeleid/comité de coordinamento des politiques internationales de l’environnement);
– the national climate commission (Nationale Klimaatcommissie/Commission nationale du climat), the central coordinating body for national climate policy, responsible for developing and monitoring the national energy and climate plan.
EUROPEAN YOUTH AS ACTORS IN GREEN POLICIES
As analyzed, for Belgium, the environmental issue underpins the country’s politics and economy, so it is crucial that young people also embrace a green mindset to advance the transition taking place.
An important role is played by organizations and associations dedicated to this issue.
One example is the Future Generations Foundation, founded in 1998 and since then dedicated to society’s transition to sustainable development.
The foundation operates on three basic pillars:
– Think, or the promotion of green education and thinking;
– Act, or the promotion of entrepreneurship and innovation in the sector;
– Invest, or the promotion and support of sustainable projects in various fields, such as the environment, food, fair trade, energy and construction.
Thus, the purpose of the Foundation is to educate young people on the issues of environmental protection and green policies and economy, promote and support youth projects in this area, and then develop a group of young green entrepreneurs who will continue the country’s current effort toward a sustainable economy.
To contribute to a sustainable world by stimulating entrepreneurship, the Foundation hosts the Seed Equity & Sustainable Entrepreneurship Fund (SE’nSE Fund), a support for startups with a strong positive environmental impact.
The Future Generations Foundation and its fund are just one example of existing best practices in Belgium to promote a green, sustainable policy and economy that will enable the country to meet European and global environmental goals.
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There are also initiatives originated by young people themselves at the European level, there are various organizations and networks operating:
- Youth and Environment Europe (YEE), founded in 1983 and to date the largest network of green youth organizations, with 42 organizations from 25 countries. YEE organizes and supports projects and campaigns that aim to increase knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the environment and awareness of climate issues among young people in Europe;
- Generation Climate Europe (GCE) is the largest youth climate coalition, with 381 organizations from 46 countries. Its goal is to facilitate coordination and collaboration among Member Organizations, empower young people to engage in EU decision-making processes on climate, environment and sustainability issues, and promote stronger environmental and climate action by the European Union that includes the voice of young people;
- The European Green Activist Training (EGAT), created in 2015 with the aim of educating young and green-minded people about European policies and active citizenship so they can promote green values and policies;
- Federation of Young European Greens, the continent’s umbrella organization for green youth organizations;
- European Youth Energy Network (EYEN), whose mission is to put young people at the center of Europe’s energy transition through strengthening green youth organizations and connecting them with key players in the field.
We can therefore say that young people in Europe and Belgium are particularly active and supported in creating organizations and activities that promote and stimulate green political, economic, and social development.