Belgium wants more climate ambition worldwide

Belgium is increasing its climate funding for poorer countries. It is also urging the development banks to stop supporting coal and go full steam ahead with renewable energy.

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Odzala National Park in the DR Congo

Part of Belgium's climate funding goes to protecting the Congo basin.
Photo: Odzala National Park in DR Congo. © iStock

The Paris climate agreement states that rich countries will provide $100 billion a year to poorer countries starting in 2020. Moreover, this amount is set to be adjusted in 2025. This so-called 'climate funding' can be used to adapt to climate change (adaptation) and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or store them in soil, forests and the like (mitigation).

At least €135 million annually

This promise has still not been fulfilled. In 2019, rich countries came out at just under $80 billion. The recent climate summit in Glasgow (COP26) also failed to provide a concrete path to reach the $100 billion mark. However, several countries including Belgium have announced an increase in their climate funding.

Belgium has donated a total of some €90 million annually to date, including contributions from the regions. The Belgian Development Co-operation is scaling up its contribution from an average of €70 million to €100 million in 2021, and will continue to increase the amount thereafter. From 2022 onwards, the total Belgian climate funding will increase to at least €135 million annually.

Belgian climate money is directed mainly towards adaptation - desired by poorer countries - especially in the least developed countries and in Africa. As such, it is promoting sustainable urban development and focusing on resilient and climate-smart agriculture. This is a form of agriculture that not only adapts to the changing climate, but also aims to emit fewer greenhouse gases. Besides the climate, biodiversity and sustainable forest management should also benefit from Belgian climate funding.

Various channels

The money is spent through international initiatives, such as the Green Climate Fund (€60 million in 2021-2023) and the Least Developed Countries Fund (increase to €15 million per year). It also supports climate action in Belgian partner countries in co-operation with UN agencies, such as the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Gaza and Niger (total of €30 million in 2021-2023).

The Central African Forest Initiative is also receiving support. By tackling the drivers of deforestation, this organisation aims to protect the Congo Basin aiming at: (1) reducing climate change, (2) conserving biodiversity and (3) fighting poverty.

Belgium also wishes to assist a number of countries in strengthening their climate policy, more specifically with the 'NDC Partnership'. NDCs are the 'nationally determined contributions' to which each country is committed to combat climate change. Higher NDCs should put assisted countries on a path towards a low-carbon and resilient society, benefiting all inhabitants.

Our country also pledged $13 million to LoCAL, an initiative of the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF). This is used to set up climate actions for local communities in Mozambique and Uganda. In Uganda, 1.2 million people will be able to reap the benefits.

€50 million will also be allocated to the Sahel (2021-2024) to combat desertification, among other things. In addition, part of the Belgian climate money goes to integrating climate action into the sustainable development programmes and projects of Belgian NGOs and the Belgian development agency Enabel.

Shareholder multilateral development banks

However, Belgium also wants to use other levers to put the world on a faster path to climate neutrality. This is why Belgium is a shareholder in a number of multilateral development banks. The World Bank is the best known of these, but our country is also involved in a number of regional development banks, such as the Asian, African and Inter-American Development Bank. There is a Belgian representative in each of these banks. Belgium's presence in these banks is governed by both the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Development Co-operation.

Renewable energy in, coal out

Development banks play an important role in facilitating sustainable development in poorer countries. From now on, Belgium wants to make sure that this development is fully in line with the Paris climate agreement. This means that our country will categorically reject investments in coal. Investments in oil and gas are only temporarily acceptable if they meet strict conditions. These include making a concrete contribution to the transition towards a low-carbon society or having a clear positive impact on development if renewable energy is not yet feasible. Belgium will above all support renewable energy and will urge the management of the development banks to be much more active in this field. Ongoing fossil energy projects must be halted as soon as possible.

Furthermore, our country has also joined a number of international coalitions that aim to raise the climate ambition of development banks. In this way, Belgium's vote will carry more weight. During COP26, Belgium signed an international declaration in which it undertook to give priority to public support for a clean energy transition.

Pressure with impact

The pressure on the development banks is already having a clear impact. At COP26, 10 major development banks came out with a joint statement. As such, they have committed to further streamlining their financing with the Paris climate agreement. They want to phase out coal and at the same time ensure that the workers involved are given other jobs. They are also focusing more attention on nature-based solutions.