Belgian Minister of climate and the environment stresses need to make transition just for all

A side-event during the COP28 took stock of just transition efforts. The ILO and the Belgian Minister of climate, the environment, sustainable development and Green Deal discussed policies and initiatives that have been implemented to support a just transition in Belgium and Europe.

News | 09 December 2023
BRUSSELS (ILO News) – The ILO organized a side-event to the COP28 on “The pathways and lessons learned leading to a Just Transition Work Programme”, with the support of UNFCC, UN Women, the International Organization of Employers (IOE), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and other key partners. Moustapha Kamal Gueye, Director of the ILO Priority action programme on Just transitions towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies, exchanged insights with social partners and governmental actors, including Zakia Khattabi, Belgian Minister of climate, the environment, sustainable development, and Green Deal.

The Minister underscored the need for a socially just ecological transition as the foundation of the new social contract. She emphasized the crucial link between the social and ecological dimensions of the just transition to prevent the double punishment of the most vulnerable. According to Ms Khattabi, the ecological transition is the most significant social challenge of this century: “If we do not succeed in making the transition just for all, there won’t be a transition at all”, she said.

As the ILO promotes ambitious climate action alongside the principles of decent work and a fair transition for everyone, the event provided an opportunity to delve into the ILO Guidelines for a just transition and the ILO Resolution concerning a just transition. It also addressed the significance of social dialogue, labour rights, and sustainable development.

Ms Khattabi flagged the lack of adequate responses and public support towards sectors such as petrochemistry and agriculture, for which the cost of inaction will be much higher than the cost of transition. She added that, in line with the ILO Guidelines, the Belgian government has worked to formulate policy responses that are tailored to the country’s specific circumstances, risks and opportunities.

Ms Khattabi presented the public policy for a Just Transition in Belgium, which she recently launched. “In line with ILO Guidelines, it was essential for me to put social and civil society dialogue at the centre of this process,” she said. Through conversations with trade unions, employers’ organizations and NGOs, seven priority areas were identified, including employment, poverty eradication and gender equality. The National labour council of Belgium recently adopted a Joint advice on Employment, education and training as part of the Just Transition. The efforts and outcomes resulting from the instrument will contribute to the development of the Just Transition Framework for Belgium.

The Minister assured Belgium’s continuous work to promote a fair and just transition at the EU and international level, the latter being a priority during Belgium's EU Presidency. “Our aim is to work with other Member States and EU institutions to see which further steps we need to take within the EU to ensure a just transition for all Europeans”, she said. She also stressed the importance of working with the European Economic and Social Committee.

Gueye highlighted the capacity of the just transition to be a unifying force and underlined that the Belgian example shows that the just transition is not just about policy content, but also a policy process, through the inclusion of social and civil dialogue, for instance.