Starting from a rather negative state of mind when it comes to our climate, we chose an article of the Belgian newspaper De Morgen in which our minister of climate Zuhal Demir (N-VA) claims that, despite the general belief, the quality of our Flemish air is improving every year. (Factcheck from 19 December).
Because persons like Greta Thunberg and – our own Belgian climate-activist – Anuna De Wever are massively striking and blaming politicians for their weak policy, climate is something that scares us. In all honesty, we chose this exact article of Zuhal Demir to prove her wrong. Little did we know she was telling the truth: our Flemish air is better than we might think.
Even though we found out quite fast that her statement in the article is correct, her claim also needs to be nuanced. Although the numbers tell us our air pollution is reducing, we are still not quite there yet. It would be wrong to think everything is going to be ok in the end. Because, yes the air quality is improving, but it is still very bad. We think this nuance is very necessary. Flanders is definitely on the right path, but there is still a long way to go.
In the same annual report where Zuhal Demir gets her information, we also learn something else. From a health point of view the European air quality policy is not ambitious enough. Studies show that the high concentration of pollutants in the air causes diseases and is proved to be harmful for humans, animals and other species.
We feel like Ms. Demir is forgetting this rather important part in her quote. She, as our minister of climate, should give us the honest state of our air quality. To state that our air quality improves each year, is technically correct but gives us a wrong impression of the state of our environment.
RESEARCH | ARTICLE © AP University College, Antwerp, Belgium. Ilene Bellens, Marie De Saedeleer, Tess Jacobs & Laurence Verhees
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