Sustainable development of energy

‘Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ (Brundtland Report definition 1987).

On the sustainable development portal site, you will find all the information relating to the current policy, the Interdepartmental Commission for Sustainable Development (ICSD), the Federal Public Service for Public Planning Service in Sustainable Development (FPS SDPPS), the Sustainable Development Task Force of the Federal Planning Bureau, the Federal Council for Sustainable Development (FCSD), the Federal Plan for Sustainable Development (FPSD), and the Guide to sustainable buying, etc.

Since 25 April 2007, the principle of sustainable development has been enshrined in Article 7a of the Belgian Constitution: ‘In performance of their respective powers, the Federal State, the Communities and Regions pursue the social, economic and environmental aspects of sustainable development objectives, taking into account solidarity between generations’.

What is sustainable development ?

The concept of sustainable development was first defined in the report to the United Nations in 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development, a committee of international experts chaired by the Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, better known as the Brundtland Commission. ‘Sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.

Sustainable development and ecological footprint

In the wake of the report, two Canadian researchers developed the ‘ecological footprints’ measure. This method takes into account the consumption and waste generated by each country. It calculates the number of hectares of land needed to restore the environment. These researchers found that the U.S. had the ‘biggest feet’, with a footprint of 9 hectares per person. Belgium is more efficient, consuming ‘only’ 5 hectares per person. Meanwhile, the average footprint per person worldwide is 2.3 ha (India’s footprint is just 1.7 ha). We can therefore see that as westerners we are living well beyond our means. The problem is that we consume too much, and the distribution between the northern and southern hemispheres is not equitable. The concept of sustainable development therefore seeks to reconcile fields as diverse as economics and ecology, while ensuring a fair distribution between generations and between North and South. Core economic activities do not take into account environmental limitations; they ultimately damage their own food resources while at the same time threatening the basic ecological resources that enable future generations to meet their needs.

More information about ecological footprint :

In this context of ecological footprint, energy and the consequences on climate change are taking centre stage. This section provides a summary of everything that relates to sustainable energy development, as well as a series of links that offer more information on the subject.

Energy is a key factor in modern day socio-economic development, both for developed countries and for developing countries. The development patterns adopted since the industrial revolution rely on an abundance of cheap energy. The question is whether this consumption and this energy generation allow for sustainable development. To answer this question, several documents have addressed the issue of the sustainable development of energy at federal level.

Publications on sustainable development

1. Working Paper 14-05 of the Federal Planning Bureau

This working-paper addresses the overall energy policy, paying particular attention to the issues of climate change and nuclear energy.

2. The federal plan for sustainable development

In response to the United Nations decision (Agenda 21), the Federal Government approved the ‘Law on the coordination of federal policy on sustainable development’ on 5 May 1997.

The law provides for on-going dialogue between the various ministers and public bodies, through the Interdepartmental Commission on Sustainable Development. Furthermore, this Commission is responsible for preparing the four-year sustainable development plan and organising an extensive public consultation on this plan before submitting the project to the government.

Downloadable in PDF format:

3. Printemps de l’environnement

Printemps de l’environnement was a political process launched in June 2008 to obtain concrete agreements for commitments from various authorities on environmental matters.  The environment, which aroused little interest just fifteen years ago, has become a priority for the public, particularly in the wake of the film and book by Al Gore (Nobel Peace Prize 2007, jointly with the IPCC) ‘An Inconvenient Truth’.  The process was innovative: the federal government and the regions all sat around the table with industrial and civil society partners.

Some 200 people representing civil society, business, unions and NGOs took part in workshops and produced their opinions on:

  • combating climate change – sustainable energy
  • modes of production and consumption patterns – biodiversity
  • environment and health
  • mobility and transport

Based on these opinions, the representatives of regional and federal environment and mobility ministers came together to define a roadmap with specific commitments.

For more information, contact the Directorate-General Energy.

Statistical information

Official statistics on sustainable development of energy are available nationwide via the ‘sustainable development indicators’. Some of these indicators relate directly to energy, while others relate indirectly to energy.  Since energy is everywhere, there are few indicators that have no link to energy!

The brief of 12 November 2008 on general policy from the Minister for Climate and Energy, Mr Paul Magnette, discusses this central issue of sustainable development indicators, namely:

The Federal Council on Sustainable Development has begun major work based, inter alia, on the work of Eurostat, and which has a societal basis. The debate on the national list of sustainable development indicators could also draw on two contributions from the Sustainable Development ‘Task Force’ of the Federal Planning Bureau in January 2009:

  • An updated version of the table of fifty indicators, selected on the basis of federal reports and national and international commitments to sustainable development;
  • A study on ecological footprint carried out in accordance with the Global Footprint Network and the Directorate-General Statistics and Economic Information of the FPS Economy (DGSIE), to clarify the hypotheses underlying the calculation of this indicator, analyse the quality of the data and question its possible use as an information tool on sustainable development.


  • Quel mix énergétique idéal pour la Belgique aux horizons 2020 et 2030 ?


  • Loi du 5 mai 1997 relative à la coordination de la politique fédérale de développement durable

Useful hyperlinks

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Direction générale de l’Energie

SPF Economie, P.M.E., Classes moyennes et Energie
Direction générale de l’Energie

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