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V-day “Energy and Ecology”: ecorealism combines ecological progress with economic growth
“For a Flemish nationalist, concern about the environment and health of the little patch of land we call Flanders is the most logical thing in the world.” On Saturday, Anneleen Van Bossuyt, the lead parliamentary candidate for East Flanders, presented the V-day “Energy and Ecology” at Flanders Expo in Ghent to an audience of 800. With the support of a panel of experts, the N-VA further explored themes such as the role of technological progress in reducing CO2 emissions, the energy supply, biotechnology and climate change adaptation. Particular attention was given to American guest speaker Michael Shellenberger and his plea for nuclear energy. The result was a high-quality congress in which the N-VA demonstrated that its ecorealism has not been plucked from the sky. “Ecology is not a theme of the left, and yes: we can combine economic growth with ecological progress,” said Anneleen Van Bossuyt.
50 years of the environment
The Greens won’t like to be reminded of it, but exactly 50 years ago the Volksunie was the very first political party in Belgium to put the theme of “environment” on the agenda of its annual congress. Since then, the theme has been a permanent fixture on the Flemish nationalist agenda, and this continued to be the case after the Volksunie transformed into the N-VA at the start of this century. In her opening speech, Anneleen Van Bossuyt quoted Knack journalist Dirk Draulans: “It is the N-VA that holds the position today of most environmentally-friendly party in Flanders”. She also referred to Mark Demesmaeker, who was recently nominated once again as best Member of the European Parliament on the theme of the environment. In short, also when it comes to ecology, the N-VA always leads the way, said Anneleen Van Bossuyt.
Ecorealism in the debate
In the important debate on the environment, the N-VA swears by ecorealism. Ecology and economy must go hand in hand on the road to a greener, healthier and more sustainable Flanders. In this regard, there is no room for dogmas, taboos or sentiment, while every effort will be made to accommodate innovation, science and technology. A panel of five experts - Frank Beckx from Essenscia Vlaanderen, science journalist Bart Coenen, Maarten Dubois from Ernst&Young, Prof. Dr. Dirk Inzé from the VIB life sciences research institute and Dr. John van Gompel from the Uitkerkse polders - debated four topical ecological themes: the role of technological progress in reducing CO2 emissions, the energy supply, biotechnology and climate change adaptation. The general trend was clear to see: Flanders is not sitting still, but on the contrary is already working on the climate challenges and is even the current leader in numerous fields.
“Nuclear energy saves lives”
Before that, the American environmental activist Michael Shellenberger from Environmental Progress had made an hour-long plea in favour of nuclear energy. Michael Shellenberger described how, on the basis of scientific literature and official reports by organisations such as the United Nations, he evolved from a traditional young green environmentalist to the pro-nuclear activist he is today. “Nuclear actually saves lives, because when you’re using nuclear energy, you’re not burning fossil fuels. You’re not exposing people to those seven million deaths a year,” Michael Shellenberger said. During his talk, which was extensively tailored to the situation in Belgium, Michael Shellenberger destroyed the prejudices about nuclear energy, which he considers to be the best energy solution mankind currently has at its disposal. After his contribution, the American all but got a standing ovation, so appreciated was his eye-opening presentation. Click here to see the whole presentation by Michael Shellenberger (video, 56:48)
Changing the world
In her closing speech, Anneleen Van Bossuyt repeated that the N-VA is in no way afraid of the climate debate. “The discussion is about very concrete things: keeping the lights on, keeping the price affordable, but it is also about avoiding six million tonnes of CO2 and doing so for a period of 10 years. This can be the central issue of the elections as far as we are concerned,” a determined Anneleen Van Bossuyt told the audience. In one breath she challenged Groen! to finally come up with concrete figures. “Numbers, Mr Calvo! I want numbers!” With a thundering applause, the audience showed its agreement with Anneleen Van Bossuyt’s forceful words. Anneleen Van Bossuyt ended the strong V-day with an optimistic message: “The technologies that we are developing in Flanders are the lever for changing the world.”