Around Easter, Belgium, like many other countries, received an OECD environmental performance report in the mail. The results of that report turned out to be seriously disappointing. With no less than 38 recommendations, we do not exactly come out on top.

The report compares the current results with those of 2007. The report thus takes stock of Belgian policy over the past 13 years. One of the main factors holding back the achievement of the goals appears to be the fragmentation of powers between the different regions and the federal level. So if we want to be among the better students by 2030 and 2050, there is only one thing to do. We urgently need to take initiative, work together and look ahead.

Recurring assessment report

The OECD Environmental Performance Report shows a country’s progress toward its environmental policy goals. These results are calculated on the basis of environmental performance assessments or environmental performance review. No fewer than 250 Belgian experts from regional and federal administrations responded to various questions posed by the OECD. This review of the implementation of Belgian environmental policy is part of a recurring cycle of analysis and exchanges between the OECD and the Belgian authorities.

It could be worse

Even if the results are not suitable for unpacking. We must be honest. Belgium has made progress on all themes since 2007. Despite the fact that we are far from being there, we have already succeeded in decoupling economic growth from environmentally harmful aspects in several areas, such as there are waste and energy.


The OECD report recommends that after the pandemic, Belgium invest in low-carbon and natural infrastructure, increase carbon prices, phase out subsidies that can be harmful to the environment and promote circular economy. Because the current pandemic has also impacted outcomes. However, we have deviated from our stated goals in part because of this health crisis.

As mentioned earlier, the fragmentation between different powers in our country complicates cooperation, but there are still a number of issues that present Belgium with a major challenge. For example, the phase-out of nuclear power by 2025 will create more emissions in other areas, the decline in biodiversity will need to be addressed, and high material and carbon footprints will need to be reduced. If these challenges are not concretely addressed, the SDGs will be difficult to achieve by 2030, especially as Europe recently tightened its targets.

Limited innovation

The figures from the OECD report show that Belgium is a strong innovator, but we are investing our innovation budget in the wrong technology. Much of the budget goes to energy-related research, but a closer look reveals that most of it is spent on research into nuclear energy and, to a lesser extent, energy efficiency. In addition, in Belgium we are still under-investing in innovation related to renewable energy sources, such as wind energy, hydraulic energy, solar energy, geothermal energy and chemical energy.

So our country still has a lot of homework to do if we want to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Read here in detail what challenges we face today.

Meanwhile, Flemish Minister for Justice and Enforcement, Environment, Energy and Tourism, Zuhal Demir, already responded to the OECD’s recommendations in the Environmental Performance Report for Belgium:

“That Flanders is trying to turn the tanker of environmental policy has not escaped the OECD either. The increased efforts made by Flanders with, among others, the Blue Deal in the fight against drought, the approach to manure fraud and our leading position in the circular handling of materials and soil. Of course, the OECD also points out important points for improvement. In particular, the enforcement of environmental regulations, reducing nitrogen precipitation and improving air quality are important in this regard and are already high on the Flemish government’s list of priorities. Flanders still has a lot of work ahead of it but I see improving our living environment as a core task.”

About OECD

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is an alliance between 30 different countries to discuss, coordinate and study economic and social policies. Member countries try to solve common problems and seek to coordinate international policies.