'Belgium should be ashamed': Anuna De Wever on COP26 performance

'Belgium should be ashamed': Anuna De Wever on COP26 performance
A 2019 climate march in Brussels. Credit: Belga

After two weeks of meetings and discussions between leaders, the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow ends today. Some targets have been set but without a federal climate agreement, Belgium is back at square one.

Exactly ten days ago, Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo addressed the summit, warning governments that more needs to be done to tackle global warming. But Belgian activists dismissed the speech as blustering bravado and "feigning to be an international example."

In conversation with The Brussels Times, Belgian climate activist Anuna De Wever made no effort to conceal her distaste: "Let me be very clear, the Belgian Government should be ashamed of itself."

"I hope that Belgium will not leave with a 'victorious' feeling. They have failed completely, on many fronts, and it is now time to speak the truth and take the action that is needed."

Multiple targets missed

Belgium currently has no federal climate agreement nor did it sign the High Ambition Coalition. It falls short of European targets because of the Flemish climate policy, and De Wever insists, Belgium's current policy miss targets set in the Paris Agreement.

On Tuesday, ministers from various regions met to set a federal climate plan. But with different regions having different climate objectives, the discussions failed to bring about an agreement to "share efforts in the field of climate policy."

Speaking to The Brussels Times on Friday, the spokesperson of Wallonia's climate minister Philippe Henri said "technical discussions will continue in the next few weeks within the framework of the National Climate Commission and a report will be made at a forthcoming Consultative Committee (currently set for 19 November)."

To express their "collective anger and shame at Belgium's lack of climate ambition," some 20 activists from the Climate Coalition and the Youth for Climate movement wore paper bags on their heads, holding the message "you embarrass us, Belgium," on the summit's final day in front of the entrance of the COP26 conference building.

"We have absolutely no right to speak at COP26 and must first put our own house in order. Many Belgian politicians completely minimise the climate crisis, both in their words and in their policies, and that has to change," De Wever said.

Credit: Youth for Climate

Yet De Wever asserted that it is not only Belgium that has failed to set ambitious goals to limit global warming to 1.5°C. "The days in Glasgow have been extremely disappointing. We knew that this is one of the last chances for humanity to radically turn the tide."

As global greenhouse gas emissions are forecast to increase, De Wever explained that a carbon budget of just six years remains before global warming becomes irreversible and the planet becomes more and more unlivable with every generation. "This COP should have done much more than it has done."

Draft proposal for change

On Friday morning the latest draft proposal for international change was released. This will be the most important document to emerge from the climate summit and includes a series of decisions and resolutions that build on the 2015 Paris Agreement. The first draft was strongly criticised by developing countries.

The revised text still includes several "victories," including the phasing out "unmitigated" coal power and "ineffective" fossil fuel subsidies, and an invitation for parties to "consider further opportunities to reduce non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gas emissions."

However, to be fully accepted, all parties involved must give their consent, resulting in the language of many targets being ambitious to allow room for interpretation by countries that may not be willing (or able) to reduce emissions as fast as others (also highlighted in the addition that "different national circumstances" must be taken into account when looking at targets for CO2 emission reductions).

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COP: exclusive and ineffective

De Wever lambasts politicians "who are so clearly in their own bubble of political power games and surrounded by people who minimise the climate crisis." She fears that the latest proposals will still make the world unlivable for millions of people.

Anuna De Wever at COP26 in Glasgow.

"Droughts and food shortages all over the world. Coastal cities and countries will be completely inundated. Millions of climate refugees and heat waves will kill thousands of people every summer."

She stressed that those living in developing countries and from precarious backgrounds will be most affected by the climate crisis. These are the people, according to De Wever, "who should have been given the platform." Instead, they have been completely excluded.

"This is the most exclusive COP ever: the people who live mostly in the global south and will bear the brunt of the crisis are not here because systematic discrimination and racism continue even at COP."

Summarising the past two weeks in one sentence, De Wever concluded "COP26 gives a platform to the lies about the future of humanity."

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