Accelerating the transition towards sustainable development
The publication of the fourth Federal Report on sustainable development implements the Belgian Act of 5 May 1997 on the Coordination of Federal Sustainable Development Policy. This Act institutes a strategic process of reporting, planning, implementation and monitoring in order to introduce these policies in Belgium at the federal level. This report proposes two long term (2050) sustainable development scenarios and assesses the existing situation, including the current policy on sustainable development.
The fourth Federal Report is based on a systemic model (called TransGovern, presented in the third Report and in STU 4-05) that links changes in the living conditions of society to government policies. It also applies a backcasting methodology for developing alternative 2050 scenarios, with the aim of achieving sustainable development objectives (SDO) based on commitments endorsed by the international community. An initial version of these scenarios was built according to a participatory approach combining scenario workshop to expert panel methods, with a panel of 15 experts from outside the Federal Planning Bureau. These future scenarios are presented for the living conditions in Part 1 and for federal policies in Part 2 of the Report, while the present situation are described for the living conditions in Part 3 and for the federal policies in Part 4.
The analysis of the evolution of living conditions in four sub-systems of the Belgian society (consumption and society, production and society, energy, food) identifies current trends concerning driving forces, pressures and capital degradations which can now be anticipated. These are major societal trends linked to demography (such as individualisation, ageing, changes in family structure and migration) and consumption and production (such as tertiarisation, the information society, technologies and the use of raw materials), having an impact, inter alia, on the energy and food sub-systems. Some of the negative pressures that these trends exert on the three capitals of development
are unsustainable (such as increased elderly dependency, threats to public health, climate change, scarcity of natural resources, etc.) and pose, therefore, long term risks to
The evaluation of the present situation also covers the existing sustainable development policy of the two Federal Sustainable Development Plans (2000-2004 and 2004-2008) as well as of 24 federal thematic plans across all departments. The overall assessment of the implementation of the two Federal Sustainable Development Plans shows that most of their measures have been implemented but that information is missing on the implementation of a significant proportion of them (15% for the first and 39% For the second). The Report also analyses 24 thematic policy plans developed at the federal level to assess their structure and cross-cutting links from a sustainable development perspective.
Two scenarios of living conditions evolution help to visualise the transition towards a world developing sustainably. The proposed vision of the world by 2050 is marked out with a set of 21 SDO's which relate to the protection and the recovery of the human, environmental and economic capitals. They are named Pyramid and Mosaic and lead from the existing situation to a world in 2050 that has reached both the SDO's and a pattern of sustainable development. Their paths are described for the four abovementioned sub- ystems and largely based on reversals of the above-mentioned unsustainable trends.
One of the main differences between these two scenarios is the degree of international coordination of policies. This coordination is reinforced in Pyramid, and remains stable in Mosaic. Another difference is the type of technical progress and the balance between technological changes and changes in human consumption and production patterns. The transformation of the economy is more oriented towards Industrial Ecology or Circular Economy in Pyramid and more towards Service Economy (or Economie de la onctionalité) in Mosaic. This implies that the proposed changes in human consumption behaviour are less demanding in Pyramid. On the other hand, Energy efficiency is improved by more than a four-fold increase in the two scenarios but grows faster (4.6) in Mosaic than in Pyramid (4.2), while labour productivity grows faster in Pyramid than in Mosaïc.
Scenarios of federal government policies provide guidance for policies that would support the transition to sustainable development following the paths of Pyramid and Mosaic. These should relate to at least five key principles of sustainable development. Policy proposals at the Belgian federal level for the above-mentioned subsystems in the short (2008-2010) and longer (2010-2050) terms concern support to international policy, coordination of Belgian federal policy, corporate social responsibility as well as consumer social responsibility.