Belgium is a federal state, composed of communities and regions. Each of the authorities (federal state, regions, communities) is responsible within its sphere of competence for adaptation to climate change.
The National Climate Commission adopted the “National Adaptation Strategy” In December 2010. This strategy summarises the expected impacts of climate change in Belgium and foresees i.a. the development of a National Adaptation Plan.
The National Adaptation Plan (2017-2020) was adopted on 19 April 2017 by the National Climate Commission. In accordance with the decision of the National Climate Commission of 27 June 2013, this plan aims to: provide clear and concise information on adaptation policies and their implementation in Belgium; identify national measures to strengthen cooperation and develop synergies between different governments (federal, regional) on adaptation.
It identifies specific adaptation measures that need to be taken at national level in order to strengthen cooperation and develop synergies between the different entities on adaptation. The Plan addresses 6 sectors and transversal issues: biodiversity, crisis management, energy, health, research and international cooperation.
The first mid-term evaluation (FR and NL) of this plan was completed in February 2019 and reflected an initial positive trend for adaptation. The subsequent final evaluation (FR and NL) in late 2020, focusing on the final implementation, indicated that the positive trend was sustained. In addition to the positive progress, remaining work items came into focus which may lay at the base of a possible follow-up.
The federal authority has relevant expertise and levers in different sectors (transport, crisis management, economy, energy, marine environment, research, health, etc.) to carry out adaptation actions.
This contribution is based inter alia on an exploratory study on the federal contribution to a coherent policy on adaptation to climate change. It is in line with the federal long-term strategic vision for sustainable development adopted in May 2013, and more particularly with objective 32: “Belgium will be adapted to the direct and indirect impact of the consequences of climate change”.
A mid-term evaluation of the implementation of the federal contribution to the National Adaptation Plan (FR and NL) was conducted for the period 2016-2018 and indicated that a vast majority of the measures were already under implementation. Subsequently, the plan underwent its final evaluation at the end of 2020. This final evaluation (FR and NL)showed that the positive trend was maintained
On 2 May 2013, the Brussels-Capital Region adopted its Air-Climate-Energy Code (called COBRACE) which, as its name suggests, includes all the policies pursued by the Region that have an impact on climate, air quality and energy management. It forms the legal basis for its integrated Air-Climate-Energy plan of 2 June 2016.
This integrated plan includes the main thrusts of the regional adaptation policy, which cover the following areas: infrastructure, forest management, water management and natural heritage.
Some adaptation measures are also included in the following Brussels thematic plans:
– the regional water management plan for the period 2017-2021, which includes an integrated and comprehensive approach to the challenges related to water management in the territory of the Region;
– the nature plan for the period 2016-2020, which plans to develop the green network and strengthen the presence of nature in cities as a local measure to adapt to extreme temperatures and combat urban heat islands.
– the management plan for the Forêt de Soignes, which includes measures to preserve or strengthen the forest’s regeneration capacity and adapt it to environmental change.
The key adaptation measures contained in these plans include reducing the population’s exposure to the risk of flooding, combating the harmful effects of soil sealing on the environment, developing green, blue (surface water network) and grey (drainage network) grids and renovating buildings for energy purposes. In many cases, the focus is on the most vulnerable populations.
In Flanders the Flemish Adaptation Plan 2013-2020 is integrated in the Flemish Climate Policy Plan 2013-2020.
The Flemish Adaptation Plan aims to understand the Flemish vulnerability to climate change and improve Flanders’ ability to defend against the effects of climate change.
The concurrent pursuit of these goals can be described as the “climate reflex”. This reflex involves screening existing and newly developed policy against the climate scenarios, and where necessary adapting them. Adaptation to climate change must be cost effective in the broadest sense of the term. This means that the costs of adaptation must be lower than the costs of the damage prevented, taking into account a number of possible uncertainties.
One important starting point in Flemish adaptation policy is that of improving resilience. By adapting the various systems (physical, economic, social) and strengthening them, these systems are made more resilient and better able to absorb the effects of climate change. For certain adaptation challenges it is necessary to make use of ecosystem services. Adaptation measures must be robust, and even no-regret, meaning that the measures remain valuable, (mostly) irrespective of the degree of climate change.
Flanders also aims to support local governments in their adaptation policy and helps them implement adaptation measures by providing them with possible measures, good practices and possible financing through the tool www.burgemeestersconvenant.be. And by a graphical display of the possible impact and effects of climate change through the climate portal https://klimaat.vmm.be
All the information is available on https://www.lne.be/vlaams-klimaatbeleidsplan
In Wallonia, adaptation is included in the integrated Air-Climate-Energy plan (PACE) 2016-2022.
To develop this part of the plan, a vulnerability assessment of the impacts of climate change was conducted at the regional level in 2011. Climate projections have been built to identify and assess the impacts of climate change in different sectors.
Then, actions and instruments were identified and gathered in the adaptation section of the PACE. Examples include flood control through flood risk management plans and flood hazard maps, updating the Forest Code to include climate change, the advisory work carried out by the GISER unit to combat erosion and mudflow phenomena, etc.
Within the framework of the Covenant of Mayors, the Walloon Region, as a coordinator, supports and helps municipalities to integrate climate impacts and develop adaptation actions to reduce their vulnerability.
A tool, the “Adapt your Commune” approach, has thus been developed to facilitate the appropriation of present and future risks at municipal territory scale. It provides impact maps and indicators to try to best estimate and visualize risks. A web interface is also available containing examples of measures to be implemented as well as a module for monitoring implementation and reporting to the Covenant of Mayors.
All the information is available on the AwAC website (Walloon Air and Climate Agency): www.awac.be .