Author David Van Reybrouck urges EU Environment ministers to democratise climate policy

Belgian author David Van Reybrouck called for the democratisation of climate policy at an informal meeting of European Environment ministers on Monday. There can be "no decarbonisation without democratisation", he said.

According to Van Reybrouck, policymakers tend to underestimate citizens, including their own voters. "The noise on social media leads them to believe that Europeans do not want to act on climate change," he said. 

But research has shown that citizens who are able to engage in debate will support consistent efforts, even if the fruits are only reaped after two generations, Van Reybrouck said.

Van Reybrouck is a historian, archaeologist and author of non-fiction books, plays and poetry. His best-known works include Congo: A History and Elections: The Case for Democracy.

Citizens' parliament on climate

Democratisation is needed to maximise the reduction of our ecological footprint, Van Reybrouck argued. "As long as climate measures are imposed from above, social unrest can be expected. We need to move from a vertical to a horizontal dynamic between those who govern and those who are governed," he said.

In the Brussels region, a permanent citizens' parliament on climate was launched last year, bringing together 100 Brussels residents to debate and formulate recommendations on a topic related to the region's climate policy. 

The initiative was set up in collaboration with G1000, a platform for democratic innovation co-founded by Van Reybrouck. "It is the world's first permanent citizens' parliament, which makes this type of body much more efficient," he said. 

Catalysts for climate action

According to Van Reybrouck, citizens can become catalysts for climate action if they are given the means to do so. He suggested, for example, the introduction of air travel credits that can be resold by people who do not travel by plane, which would benefit the poorest. 

"The poorest are not responsible for the problem, but they are the first victims. They are also less involved in decision-making. The transition should not cost them money," he said.

Van Reybrouck was invited by Brussels Environment minister Alain Maron of the French-speaking green party Ecolo, who is chairing the two-day meeting of European ministers in Brussels on behalf of the Belgian EU presidency. 


#FlandersNewsService | Belgian author and historian David Van Reybrouck © PHOTO ANDRE PAIN / AFP

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