Last update:11 Jan 2017

Item Status Links
National adaptation strategy • Adopted
Action plans • Adopted/Completed and submitted for adoption/Being developed
Impacts, vulnerability and adaptation assessments • Completed • Currently being undertaken
Research programs • Currently being undertaken
Climate services / Met Office • Established/Being developed
Web portal / Adaptation platform • Online/Being developed
Monitoring, Indicators, Methodologies • Established/Being developed
Training and education resources
National Communication on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change • Last National Communication Submitted (2014)

In 2010, Belgium adopted its National Adaptation Strategy (NAS). The strategy describes the main climate change impacts, the existing adaptation responses, a roadmap to a future National Adaptation Plan (NAP) and some policy guidelines for an adapted future. The Strategy pursues the improvement of the communication and consistency between the adaptation activities.

Belgium is a federal state, composed of 3 geographic regions and 3 language-based communities, each with its own executive and legislative bodies. They intervene on an equal footing but in different areas of competence (further details are available on portal belgium.be). To take national decisions there are commissions/coordination committees where governments and ministries are represented. The National Climate Commission (NCC) deals with domestic climate issues and the Coordination Committee for International Environmental Policy (CCIEP) treats the international environmental affairs. The NCC is responsible for the development, adoption and implementation of the NAS and the NAP.

A draft National Adaptation plan (2016-2020) was adopted by the NCC in December 2016. This draft plan identifies specific adaptation measures that need to be taken at national level in order to strengthen cooperation and synergies between the different entities on adaptation. It will be submitted to regional and federal advice Councils and finalised in 2017. 

The regional and the federal governments have adopted, each in their own area of competence, adaptation plans:

On 28 June 2013, Flanders adopted the Flemish Climate Policy Plan 2013 - 2020, including a section on adaptation known as the Flemish Adaptation Plan (VAP). The primary goals are understanding the Flemish vulnerability to climate change and improving Flanders' ability to defend against the effects of climate change. The concurrent pursuit of these goals can be described as the "climate reflex".  The 11 involved Flemish governmental departments maintain responsibility for the actions in their policy domain and they will bear the cost of these actions using their usual financial resources. In 2015 Flanders developed a first progress report 2013 - 2015 on climate change, including a section on adaptation. 

On 2 May 2013 the Brussels-Capital Region adopted its Air-Climate-Energy Code (known as COBRACE). It serves as a legal basis for its Integrated Air-Climate-Energy Plan which was adopted on 2 June 2016 and which includes a section on adaptation.

Other thematic plans with adaptation measures are the in 2012 adopted regional water management plan including the "flood prevention Plan" called "PLUIE plan" created in 2008. A second regional water management is currently being adopted for the period 2016-2020 and integrates completely the theme flood. The Region adopted the "forêt de Soignes" management plan (2003) and its Nature Plan (2016) which both includes adaptation.

In January 2014 the Walloon government adopted its "Climate Decree" giving a legal framework to climate policy in Wallonia. The main implementation instrument is the "Air-Climate-Energy Plan" which contains a section on adaptation. This section summarises the impacts & vulnerability assessments and detailed adaptation actions in several sectors. Water management, forestry guidelines and agricultural advice are some examples of these actions. The draft plan was submitted to a public survey in June 2014 and the final version was adopted in April 2016.

On 28 October 2016, the federal government adopted the Federal Contribution to the National Adaptation Plan which identifies federal adaptation actions in crisis management and transport. The contribution was submitted to a public survey in 2014.

Climate change will affect multiple sectors. Different sectoral and cross sectoral adaptation measures have been identified at national, federal and regional level. The identification of key sectors was based on risks and vulnerabilities assessments as well as competence sharing between the different entities in Belgium. Sectors involved in adaptation are agriculture, biodiversity, built environment, coastal areas, crisis management, development cooperation, energy, environment, fisheries, forests, health, infrastructures, industry & services, research, tourism, transport, water management. 

 

a. Observations and projections  

Observations
Different organisations in Belgium collect and provide data useful for the determination of the vulnerability for climate change. A non-exhaustive summary is given in the table below.

GENERAL

Meteorology and climatology (observations, forecasts, statistical analysis, etc.)

Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium (RMI)

Regional climate models and scenarios

RMI, VMM, INBO in collaboration with KULeuven, UCL, KNMI and VITO

Climate variables (greenhouse gases, aerosols) & development of models for the composition and chemistry of the atmosphere

Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy

Carbon balance

Royal Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS)

FOREST

  • Permanent inventory & monitoring of the health of the forests (e.g. monitoring changes in oak and beech trees which are particularly vulnerable to climate change);
  • Supplies knowledge on nature and its sustainable management and use

NAUTICAL

Nautical Monitoring Network: Oceanographic parameters (waves, tidal height and water) & Meteorological nautical parameters (wind, atmospheric pressure, atmospheric temperature and precipitation) & Nautical weather forecasting (tide tables, storm warnings, …)

  • The Flemish Hydrography (the Flemish Banks Monitoring Network)
  • Royal Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS)

WATER

  • Monitoring of waterways ; Impact of human activity and nature on water systems and the consequences for navigation ; Security against flooding ; Water dynamics and nature conservation ; Websites on flood, tide, rainfall and drought, (constantly updated information, instant modelling and predictions for the near future).
  • acidity of sea water

COMMUNICATION

  • modelling and on line predicting from actual situations, to long term vision reporting;
  • Various environmental & climate reports: Outlook 2030 report (2009) ; Indicator report and regularly updated website on emissions & concentrations of greenhouse gasses, temperature, precipitation, sea level, health effects from climate change and effect of climate change on nature, ... ; new climate report (MIRA Klimaatrapport, 2015); Report on megatrends (in Dutch); Climate vigilance 2015

For further information on systematic observation, see Belgian 6th National Communication (chapter 8.3).

Projections
In Belgium, quite some climate modelling work has already taken place and will continue in the future. They were used for a number of climate change simulations (see: MIRA onderzoeksrapport 'Indicatoren van het stedelijk hitte-eiland in Vlaanderen', 2015; MIRA ‘Actualisatie en verfijning klimaatscenario’s tot 2100 voor Vlaanderen', 2015; Verkenning van de federale bijdrage aan een coherent beleid inzake klimaatadaptatie, Eindrapport,  CCI-HYDR Perturbation Tool, Flanders Environment Report 2009).). Key elements from those simulations are synthesised below (for further information, see NC6 chapter 6.2.2):

  • Hotter climate (from 1.5°C until 7.2°C by 2100)
  • Increased seasonality of precipitation (dry summer and wet winter)
  • More extreme events (floods are one of the main impacts observed and heatwaves)
  • Low river flow during dry summers with increased risk of a serious water shortage
  • Sea level rise
  • Strengthened heat island effect

 
Recently the Flemish regional data and climate models were updated taking into account the new IPCC scenarios. The report became available in 2015.

A new project Cordex.be (launched early 2015), aims to combine existing and new Belgian research activities in the domain of climate modelling to create coherent scientific basis for climate services in Belgium 

b. Impacts & vulnerability assessments 

Impact, vulnerability and adaptation assessments have been funded and piloted at regional and federal level (Brussels, Federal, Flanders, Wallonia). These preliminary studies were the first step before starting the development of regional and federal adaptation plans.

Besides these trans-sectoral studies, several specific impacts assessments have been also funded by Belgium in different sectors (coastal zones, forestry, agriculture, ...).

Most of the Belgian studies can be consulted on the Circle 2 ERA-net infobase and on the different Belgian websites (LNE, Brussels Environment, AwAC, BELSPO -SSD and BRAIN-, Climatechange.be).

A brief description of the major impacts and vulnerabilities for various sectors impacted by climate change in Belgium (adapted from the different regional vulnerability studies mentioned above) is given in the following table.

The economic impact of climate change is not yet fully known. Global models can be used to translate the costs for adaptation but as they are a mean for the whole of the world it's hard to translate it to local scale. Two first studies have tried to getting more knowledge about it. The first one ('Adaptatie aan klimaatverandering: Globale kosten en praktische voorbeelden') tried to have an idea of the costs on local scale through an evaluation of 4 typical quarters. The second one aimed to answer to the question "What would be the additional costs if we get today the climate of 2050?" (in other words, without any adaptation measures). The biggest costs are met in the sectors of biodiversity, water management & infrastructures and forestry. As quite some part of the costs are not yet known, it is difficult to have an overall view.  

c. Research 

The Belgian Science Policy (BELSPO) has funded research projects related to adaptation in different sectors and Climate-relevant projects through its Research Program "Science for a Sustainable Development - SSD" and within the scope of the STEREO II research programme. Several projects relevant for adaptation to climate change are funded through new research programme BRAIN-be (Belgian Research Action through Interdisciplinary Networks).

IWT, the Flemish Agency for Innovation by Science and Technology, helps Flemish companies and research centres in realizing their research and development projects. One of the projects is the project focusing on Climate change and changes in spatial structures in Flanders (CcASPAR).

The Flanders Marine Institute VLIZ is providing scientific information (including on climate changes and climate change adaptation) on the sea, the coast and tidal systems.

INBO is cooperating with Italian and French arborists to develop tree varieties which are better adapted to warmer climate. So, even in a changed climate, native trees can be preserved.

Belgium is represented in different European research networks (for detailed information, see NC6).

Research related to climate adaptation is also carried out in several other Belgian scientific institutions.

d. Monitoring progress

Monitoring of indicators is regularly updated on the website of the Flemish Environment Agency (VMM). A specific indicator for the urban heat island in the Flemish Region in Northern Belgium is recently developed . 

For Flanders sectoral pilots will have to report yearly on the actions described in the Flemish Adaptation Plan. 

In Brussels, the Air-Climate-Energy Code provides two mechanisms of monitoring progress of the Brussels Integrated Air-Climate-Energy Plan (an annual publication of a synthesis of performance indicators of its implementation and a report on the state of progress of its implementation at the latest four years after its adoption).

Similar monitoring mechanisms are also foreseen in Wallonia.

a. Governance

The National Adaptation strategy is approved by the NCC. The adaptation working group (CABAO) has prepared the draft National Adaptation Plan which was approved by the NCC in December 2016 (the draft NAP is submitted to regional and federal advice Councils and will be finalised in 2017).

The development, adoption and implementation of the different regional and federal adaptation plans and the engagement of stakeholders for those plans, are the responsibility of the respective regional and federal governments.

For the Flemish adaption plan, stakeholder consultation was done by "round tables" two times in the process, once during a workshop after the first ideas were set on paper, and another time when the draft version was proposed to the different advisory boards (SARO, MINA-raad, SERV, MORA, SALV, RIVW, jeugdraad, …).

Public consultations were held on the draft plans:

  • In February-April 2014 for the draft Federal Adaptation Plan. The Federal Council for Sustainable Development also delivered an advice on this.
  • In summer 2014 for Wallonia
  • A consultation have been held in 2015 for the Brussels Integrated Air-Climate-Energy Plan

 
Some intersectoral and intrasectoral focus groups have also been set up at regional and federal levels. The role of these focus groups is to exchange data, gather information on the adaptation measures currently undertaken by the various departments (bottom-up approach), to identify the objectives and priority measures to be taken and/or reporting on measures undertaken.

A think tank consisting of academics and other experts on adaptation to climate change with focus on spatial planning is subsidised by the Flemish government for 3 years to jointly and cross-disciplinary develop and spread knowledge on adaptation. At the same time this think tank discuss in this way required measures and to identify in advance conditions and barriers to implementation. Thus, this think tank will improve innovation drive in the field of climate resilience in the Triple Helix Research-government enterprise.

Local scale is empowered by the European commission by establishing the Covenant of Mayors. Belgium was represented by 5 cities and 1 province in the first Mayor’s Adapt signatory session and counts now around 30 signatories in the new Convenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy. They are now organised in a pilot group. This pilot group is setting out the support what will be possible by the regional government.

The Flemish government is developing an instrument to support local authorities in the integration of adaption in their policies. A preparatory study was finished in 2015.

The city of Ieper has a district named "De Vloei", which is being developed in cooperation with WVI partner of the project "Future Cities, urban networks to face climate change" (Interreg 4b). The aim is to develop a quarter adapted to climate change.

The city of Gent made a voluntary climate coalition with citizens to increase their resilience to climate change and to make the city climate neutral by 2020.

The city of Antwerp is reducing the heat island effect in the city and lowering the impact of flash floods with for example ordinances to promote green roofs. The protection against sea level rise can be followed on internet with the website "onze kaaien" (in Dutch). The measures were discussed in public hearing

The updated Sigma Plan, developed by Waterwegen en Zeekanaal NV and taking into account climate change, is an intelligent, future-oriented project aiming at an integrated water management for safety against inundations by the Scheldt and its tributaries, ecological functioning, navigation, port access and recreation. Public is involved and informed on permanent basis by public hearing for projects, exhibitions, a website, guided tours, publications, …

The Flemish authorities for waterway management, Waterwegen en Zeekanaal NV and nv De Scheepvaart, drew up a masterplan "Water management Waterways, preview  2020", which describes how those two agencies integrate measures of climate adaptation in their projects. (Examples: construction of pumping installations and waterpower plants, renewal of lock and weir complexes, river restoration projects,…) Actions are taken in close cooperation with customers and stakeholders. 

In Wallonia, a tool to guide/help the cities to establish a diagnostic of vulnerability to climate change at the local level has been developed and designed specifically for municipalities. The tool is available and provided to the municipalities in the framework of the POLLEC campaign since 2015. This initiative supports more than 110 municipalities (out of 262 Walloon municipalities) to develop a climate energy action plan.

Besides this vulnerability diagnostic tool, the development of a second tool, focused on planning & implementation of adaptation actions, has just started.

In 2007, the Brussels Institute for the Environment Management set up an operational strategy with a view to promoting the emergence of particularly exemplary neighbourhoods with regard to sustainability in the Brussels Capital Region. This strategy concerns both existing neighbourhoods and those to be built up. Its aim is to improve the environmental quality of a neighbourhood, on the basis of citizens' initiatives which involve inhabitants and users of the concerned area. Some of measures taken in the sustainable neighbourhoods increase their resilience to the climate changes (green roof, measures about water management,...) and contribute to the climate change mitigation efforts by reducing or preventing emission of greenhouse gases. In 2013, the number of sustainable neighbourhoods in Brussels was thirty one. 

Transboundary co-operation with the Netherlands and Luxemburg is on-going on an ad-hoc basis through the Benelux secretariat. A Benelux workshop on adaptation took place in November 2014.

b. Adaptation capacity, dissemination, education, training 

Within the respect of their competencies, the different Belgian entities raise awareness and develop education to climate change. Different websites on climate and adaptation exist (see the links in the summary table at the end), documentation for schools have been developed (ex: educational files, www.climatechallenge.be), multimedia supports are used (e.g. WMO Weather forecast 2050) to disseminate climate change information (see the links in the summary table at the end).

Stakeholder meetings on climate change adaptation gathering scientists, administrations and civil society are organised.

Within the framework of bilateral cooperation program between Belgium and Vietnam related to the adaptation to climate change in the water management and urban development sectors, a study tour was organized in Belgium and Netherlands in October 2014.

c. International dimension

The impact of Climate Change in countries in the South can be an important source of instability in terms of food security, biodiversity loss, migration, health problems, tensions and even conflict. The Belgian development cooperation considers the fight against climate change and support for adaptation crucial elements of its policies.

The Act on Development Cooperation (March 2013) includes the protection of the environment and natural resources, including the fight against climate change as one of its transversal priorities. An Environmental Strategy for the Belgian Development Cooperation was adopted in 2014. It has three main building blocks: (1) integration of the theme, "conserving and protecting the environment" in all activities, supported by the Belgian DC by reinforcing environmental governance (capacity development, raising awareness and the mutual transfer of knowledge, technology and skills), (2) sector-specific approach focusing on environmental support in 4 priority areas: water, sustainable use of land and soil, forestry and urban waste management, and (3) policy coherence for development to achieve sustainable consumption and production and to promote low carbon development.

The act on development cooperation culminated in financing several projects integrating climate adaptation in their project.

The Academic Research Platform of the Belgian Development Cooperation "KLIMOS" provides scientific support for policy makers on the following issues: 1) sustainable natural resource management, 2) sustainable energy and infrastructure, 3) Environmental/ Sustainability Monitoring & Evaluation and 4) governance for Environment & Sustainability. KLIMOS also developed an environmental sustainability toolkit to support integration of environmental issues, including climate change, in plans, programs and projects of development cooperation. This toolkit has been reviewed and further efforts are being made to increase its use by all actors of the Belgian Development Cooperation.

Belgium is also involved in international adaptation funding under the UNFCCC. Belgian Governments have contributed to the international climate finance through the implementation of bilateral projects (Flanders, Wallonia, Brussels Region, Federal) and participation in the Adaptation Fund and other multilateral funds, such as the Green Climate Fund (Flanders, Wallonia, Brussels Region, Federal) and Least Developed Countries Fund (Federal).

 
Julien Hoyaux (the Belgian representative for adaptation in Europe)

Julien.HOYAUX(at)spw.wallonie.be
Agence Wallonne de l'Air et du Climat
avenue Prince de Liège, 7 bte 2
B-5100 Jambes, Belgium
www.awac.be

 

Pascale Van der Plancke

pvanderplancke(at)environnement.brussels
Brussels Institute for the Management of the Environment (IBGE/BIM)
Site de Tour & Taxis
Avenue du Port 86C/3000
B-1000 Brussels, Belgium
www.bruxellesenvironnement.be

 

Claire Collin

Claire.Collin(at)environnement.belgique.be
Federal Public Service Health, Food chain Safety and Environment
DG Environment – Climate Change Section
Place Victor Horta 40 – box 10
B-1060 Brussels, Belgium
www.climatechange.be

 

Annemarie Van der Avort

annemarie.vanderavort(at)diplobel.fed.be
Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation
DG Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid – D2.4 Climate, Environment and Natural Resources
Karmelietenstraat 15
B-1000 Brussels, Belgium
www.diplomatie.belgium.be/en/

 

Griet Verstraeten
griet.verstraeten(at)lne.vlaanderen.be
Flemish Government
Department of Environment, Nature and Energy (LNE) – Environment, Nature and Energy Policy Division
Koning Albert II-laan 20 bus 8
B-1000 Brussels, Belgium
www.lne.be

 

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