'Can't afford not to act,' Belgian Prime Minister warns COP26

'Can't afford not to act,' Belgian Prime Minister warns COP26
Alexander De Croo at COP26 on Tuesday. Credit: Twitter

Belgium's Prime Minister Alexander De Croo warned world leaders at COP26 that governments need to do more to tackle global warming, and that action needs to happen now.

During his speech on Tuesday afternoon at COP26 in Glasgow, he referred to the extreme climate conditions seen this year, including the firestorms, heatwaves and floods that took lives in Europe, including in Belgium.

"41 people died in such floods in my country last July, the first Belgian citizens who fell victim to climate change. Other countries and other continents already paid a much higher price, but for us, that was something far away. Something on TV. Not anymore," he said.

He referred to the report published by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in August this year, which warned that, unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.

"The report leaves us with one conclusion only: we need a rapid and large-scale reduction of CO2 emissions to bring the one and a half degrees goal within reach. There really is no time to lose. We are behind schedule and need to pick up the pace," De Croo stressed.

"We simply cannot afford not to act. We simply cannot lean back and wait for the next flood, the next heatwave, or the next forest fire to kill and destroy. That is why Belgium and the European Union are undertaking action," he added.

He set out the efforts being made by Belgium, including its investments in offshore wind energy, of which the capacity "will be tripled by the end of the decade."

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"That will cover the electricity need of every single household." De Croo added that Belgium has the ambition to become an important hub in clean hydrogen supply.

Belgium has also promised to strengthen the resilience of the most fragile countries by "increasing its contribution to international climate finance by 60% while contributing €200 million to end deforestation, an initiative announced earlier in the day that will be signed by more than 100 countries.

De Croo stressed that political will is needed now and that other major economies should follow suit "for their own benefit" to protect livelihoods.

"There has been plenty of time for long speeches and lofty ambitions, now it is time for action, starting today. This is not just another perfunctory summit we routinely attend. We are here out of sheer necessity and urgency. It’s all hands on deck now," he concluded.

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