On 22 April, CERAC (the Belgian Centre for Climate and Environmental Risk Assessment) presented its missions, objectives and activities. The event was organised in the context of the EU Council Presidency's adaptation to climate change priority and the recent publication of the first European climate risk assessment.

The event also marked the official launch of CERAC, which was set up last year. CERAC is dedicated to analysing the risks associated with climate change, biodiversity loss and their medium- and long-term impact on society, with particular emphasis on their implications for national security.

From the outset, CERAC's director, Luc Bas, made it clear that "CERAC's role is not to manage crises but to prevent them"; its objectives being to map the risks and also to make recommendations to the National Security Council. Examining the impact of climate change and the overstepping of planetary boundaries on our security is a recent concern that is gaining in importance and becoming a major priority.
Several CERAC projects are currently underway. For example, the center is preparing information notes and recommendations targeted at different sectors, such as the financial, health and agricultural sectors. The results of CERAC's first study on overshooting global limits in the Belgian context show the urgent need to take into account and respond to the problems of nitrogen concentration, biodiversity loss and climate disruption in Belgium. In addition, a risk analysis based on a much broader scope and an established methodology has just been commissioned. It should lead to a prioritisation of the issues on the basis of which CERAC will formulate recommendations. The report is expected in summer 2025. These studies and analyses should help to better inform the competent authorities and the sectors concerned so that they can take the necessary concrete measures.

The Federal Minister for the Environment and Climate underlined the importance of CERAC: As I have said time and again during this parliamentary term, to govern is to plan! The climate and biodiversity crises are two sides of the same coin, and it is important to approach them with knowledge and a long-term vision. It is also essential to understand the risks of these crises for our health, our economy and all of society.  Only then can we make informed decisions to avoid these risks as far as possible, and to protect vulnerable populations and sectors in the best possible way.”

CERAC was able to count on the collaboration of the European Environment Agency (EEA) in organising this Belgian Presidency event, which provided a platform for high-level discussions, the exchange of ideas and the dissemination of information on these new but crucial subjects.

The conclusions of the agency's EUCRA report and other studies, together with the risk analyses carried out by CERAC, should feed into and enrich each other.  

The EUCRA report also identifies policy priorities related to climate change adaptation and policy development in climate-sensitive sectors, to be taken up during the next EU policy cycle, both at European and national level. “The clear message of EUCRA is that European and national policymakers must act now to reduce climate risks by ambitious emission cuts and adaptation actions. The massive interest in the assessment confirms that this message resonates throughout Europe, and it should lead to stronger climate action and collaboration between local, national, and European governance levels”, added Leena Ylä-Mononen, Executive Director of the EEA.

In the future, CERAC should therefore play an important role in strengthening Belgian and European efforts to better understand and address the urgent climate risks facing Europe.

 Key figures for Europe and Belgium

  • +2.1°C: The average annual temperature in Belgium compared with pre-industrial times.
  • 6,780: premature deaths due to air pollution in Belgium (2021).
  • 18th: Belgium's ranking in the list of countries with the highest levels of water stress in the world.
  • + 200 and EUR 44 billion: the consequences (death & damages) to 2021 extreme precipitation and large-scale floods in Germany and Belgium 
  • 2023: the warmest year on record globally, Europe being the fastest-warming continent in the world.
  • EUR 1 trillion: the potential economic damages per year related to coastal floods alone by the end of the century in the EU
  • Between 60,000 and 70,000: premature deaths in Europe linked to the record-hot summer of 2022
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