YCOP – How committed is Belgium to combating climate change?

As one of the defining topics of our generation and our future, climate change will be the main focus of this month’s articles for our website. Last Saturday, the YCOP ULB organized a youth forum for climate change action, where young people could hear from many different experts and people actually working on the field and debate about challenges for youth involvement, transport, energy transition, and agriculture. As Multilingual communication students, we were there to report the forum’s main takeaways. 

Is climate change already a problem? 

Yes! Nowadays, the global climate is 1.1˚C warmer than pre-industrial levels. While this might not seem like a tremendous change, the consequences are already palpable: ice caps are melting at alarming rates, sea levels are rising, and extreme weather conditions are becoming the norm. Moreover, last year, climate change accounted for 7 million deaths! Also, we have to remember that 1.1 ˚C is only the median increase: the global North is already experiencing an increase of 2-3 ˚C, and even up to 10 ˚C depending on the season. In general, global warming is very likely to attain 1.5 to 2 ˚C by 2030, which would be a danger to humans and the environment alike. 

Is climate change caused by humans? 

Prof. Hannon, expert in climate politics, warns that climate change is an imminentproblem caused by the release of chemical components and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. He is surprised at how often he is questioned whether we can be sure that human activity is, indeed, the cause of the changing climate. As an expert in this subject, he confirms that it is clear that the climate-altering CO2 mainly comes from industrial production, transport, and heating, but also deforestation and agriculture. Indeed, anthropogenic carbon emissions are 100 times larger than natural ones. However, we do not see the necessary reactions: even after diverse campaigns and treaties, CO2 emissions are still on the rise, and since 2015, faster than ever. 

Isn’t the Paris Agreement solving everything? 

In order to keep global warming below the critical threshold of 1.5 ˚C, we only have 10 years to decrease the amount of CO2 released into the air by 45% from 2010 levels, and by 2050, we need to live emission-free. Even for a 2 ˚C increase, we need to significantly decrease our emissions by 2030 and attain a net zero around 2075. In reality, even if we keep our pledges and targets of the Paris Agreement – although it is the most ambitious climate agreement yet – it would still not be enough to significantly combat global warming. 

What is Belgium doing? 

Belgium is facing a mitigation challenge: although its emissions have decreased by about 20 % from 1990, with current policies, these emissions are likely to increase again. According to the experts, even if we follow our draft National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP), it is still “far from being enough” in order to reach the emissions targets. Indeed, pathways limiting global warming would require rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, and urban infrastructure including transport, buildings, and industrial systems. While most policy makers look for short-term incremental change, we need systemic change in the way society is organized in order to effectively combat climate change. 

In the end, it is not “Belgium” that does not prioritize effective climate change action, but (too) many Belgian politicians. Hence, if you want to see real change in the way we treat our environment, do not take the upcoming elections lightly: take the time to read up about candidates’ programs to make an informed choice for your – and our – future on May 26. 

By Rachel Ledieu 

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