Climate minister signs up to coalition to phase out fossil fuel subsidies

Belgium’s Climate minister has signed a coalition agreement launched by the Dutch government to phase out fossil fuel subsidies at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai. 

At COP26 in Glasgow in 2021, nearly 200 countries agreed to phase out “inefficient” subsidies. The Dutch call, signed by 12 countries, proposes that signatories publish their fossil fuel subsidies before the next COP29, scheduled for November 2024. In Belgium, this is already being carried out by the federal government, says the office of Climate minister Zakia Khattabi of francophone green party Groen, who signed the agreement.

However, deputy prime minister David Clarinval, of francophone liberals MR, has ruled out Belgium ending such policies.

13 billion euros

The amount of subsidies for fossil fuels in Belgium in 2020 was estimated at nearly 13 billion euros, of which nearly 11 billion is in direct subsidies, mainly in the form of tax exemptions or reduced excise duties or VAT. The remainer is in indirect subsidies, mainly through the tax system for company cars and VAT exemption on airline tickets.

In a post on X, Clarinval, said: “Contrary to what Minister Khattabi announced in Dubai without government approval, #begov will not end policies supporting fossil fuels.” 

Ending this support would mean ending the social tariff for thousands of people and abolishing company cars, including electric ones, he said. “This goes against the coalition agreement and the agreements that were explicitly concluded on this subject in the context of the federal NEKP [National Energy and Climate Plan].”

Call for practical action

Energy minister Tinne Van der Straeten of Flemish greens Groen disputes that ending subsidies will lead to the end of the social tariff. "Minister Clarinval is misleading Belgian families: the social tariff is a financial support to help the most disadvantaged families pay the energy bill, whatever the source of energy," she said. 

The countries who have signed the coalition are the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Spain, Finland, Antigua and Barbuda, Canada, France, Denmark, Costa Rica and Luxembourg. 

In a statement, they said: “We urge all parties at COP28 to urgently implement their commitment of phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies made in the Glasgow Climate Pact and to take practical action along a clear timeline.”


People arrive at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai on 30 November 2023 © PHOTO GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP

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