Opening van de GLOBE 2008 in Vancouver

  • 12/03/2008
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(Tekst alleen beschikbaar in het Engels)

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In 2050 my daughter Elisabeth who is now 6 will have my age. Like any parent, I am concerned about the kind of world in which she will live.

The findings of the IPCC are clear: the changes in our natural environment are ?unequivocal?. And furthermore, the cost of inaction is huge. So doing nothing simply isn?t an option. We also know that far-reaching measures will be necessary. If by 2050 we want to even maintain the current CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, emissions will need to be reduced by 50 to 85%. This means, basically, that we will have to live in an almost carbon-free world.

This is the challenge we are facing. And tackling this challenge will require action across the board and by everybody: business leaders, politicians, opinion makers, researchers, educators, the media, NGOs and we ourselves, as responsible citizens.

What makes this GLOBE conference unique, is that you bring all those stakeholders together. And that?s why I am truly delighted to have been asked to open your 10th anniversary session. I congratulate you on an impressive list of speakers and on a full programme that addresses the key sustainability issues.

Surely, the overall message is very clear: we need to take urgent action, this action must be balanced and coherent, it needs to be far-reaching, and it engages the responsibility of all.


In Europe, we are taking our responsibility. Many observers note that the European Union has even taken the lead.
And the package announced by Commission President Barroso in January sets ambitious goals by the year 2020 :
- to achieve a 20% cut in our emissions of greenhouse gases;
- to commit to a 30% cut in emissions provided all developed countries agree to do the same;
- to reach a proportion of 20% of renewables in the total energy mix;
- to save 20% of energy consumption through energy efficiency.

The Emissions Trading Scheme launched by the EU has given a boost to industry in fostering low carbon investments and new technologies. As such, to quote EU Commissioner Dimas, ?The carbon market is the bridge between environment protection and economic concerns. It delivers real reductions in greenhouse gases at the lowest economic costs.? End of quote. The EU wants this Scheme to become the pillar of a global carbon market and to build it on generalized auctioning of allowances. And through the Clean Development Mechanism as launched in Kyoto, the carbon market will also help to finance action in developing countries.

Achieving these goals will require huge efforts by policymakers and the business world. But we also know that technology will play a crucial role. The EU is well aware of that. To give just one example: in its Strategic Energy Technology Plan, the EU has chosen carbon capture and storage (CCS) as the technology of choice for new power plants.

Another challenge for Europe is in the area of risk capital. In North America the tradition of venture capital is well established. In the EU, there is a clear need for substantial private investment in environmental business. We have the ideas, we have the technology, we have the political framework: what we now need is investors ready to commit capital in environment-enhancing business ventures. The business world is aware of that: it was a topic at last month?s European Business Summit in Brussels under the theme: ?Greening the Economy?.


The EU policies cannot be successful without the full commitment of all member states. And support from other leading nations is necessary as well. Canada has decided to set ambitious goals for itself. We have noticed how much the governments of Canada, and of British Columbia, have developed policies that match those of the EU. I refer to Canada?s national emissions reduction strategy, the promotion of clean technologies and stringent measures against pollution. Here in BC your have put environmental stewardship at the heart of your policy, and you intensify emissions control through the new Pacific Carbon Trust.

Canadian and international support to this Globe Conference is consistent and remarkable. I feel confident therefore in presenting to you a few assets of my own country in the area of sustainability.


Belgium, as you know, is located in the industrial heartland of Europe. We have a high population density and very few natural resources for renewable energy. All these factors make my country particularly sensitive to the effects of climate change policies.

Because the challenge is huge, we feel that society as a whole must be implicated in the solutions we adopt. This is consistent with a long tradition we have in Belgium: decision making by negotiation leading to a consensus among all stakeholders. We think that this tradition is particularly well suited for addressing the long-term concerns about climate change. That is why, after Rio, we set up a consultative process where all parties concerned participate. They meet in the framework of the Federal Council on Sustainable Development of which I am Honorary President. Although we are a consultative and not a decision making body, we have one advantage: the advice and opinions we give, represent the view of all stakeholders. Decision makers don?t need to go through an elaborate consultation process: the Council does it for them. Our aim is to reach a ?societal consensus?, and this is vital if we want to have everyone on board to support long-term solutions.

Belgian business is responding actively to environmental concerns. Some of our companies and sectors are at the forefront of environmental innovation and technology:

- UMICORE manufactures one third of all automobile catalyst converters in the world, and is also a leader
in battery technology;
- IMEC is world leader in the technology of photovoltaic cells;
- We are among the top inventors of patents on wind energy;
- Our recycling industry is among the top 5 European performers;
- And in treatment of polluted water and soil, our companies have developed leading-edge technology.

Many of these companies have joined me in this trade mission, and they will be delighted to meet you at the Trade Fair.

Innovation is indeed the key to success in ?greening the economy?. At the European Business Summit, Commission President Barroso was very clear. I quote: ?Competitiveness depends on innovation. The need to improve environmental performance often triggers innovation, which in turn leads to ?first-mover advantages?.? End of quote. Our companies are convinced that great opportunities lie ahead. Through innovative technologies and processes they can create considerable added value and gain clear competitive advantage.


Ladies and Gentlemen,
The business community is taking up its own responsibility. National and European leadership is showing the way. But we still need to foster an international consensus on the way forward. What is needed above all is the cooperation of all nations: the industrialised world, emerging economies and developing countries.

Since the Rio Conference and the Kyoto protocol, the international community has made steady progress towards universal application of stringent new regulations. Kyoto was only partially successful, and therefore we need the support of all industrialised countries and of the world?s main emerging economies. In this context, the Major Economies Meeting, supported by the US and Canada, is a very important initiative.

But we are now looking beyond Kyoto. And the need for international consensus is becoming even more compelling. That is why the roadmap adopted in Bali is so important:
- not only did it launch the perspective of a post-Kyoto framework,
- but in Bali, the developing countries, who suffer so greatly from the effects of climate change, were
taken on board as partners in our joint effort.
Having all nations on board is not just a matter of international solidarity. We will also need consensus if we want to establish an international level playing field. In a globalized world this is of paramount importance, not just to countries or to NGOs but also, I know, to the business community. It could even be said that we need a true global governance to tackle the global challenge of climate change in a globalized world. With the international legitimacy of the UN and the support of all individual nations working together, enforcing the increasingly stringent regulations will become all the more effective. In the Belgian view, a UN Environmental Organization could, in time, help us to achieve this goal.

The international community has its work cut out. But we ourselves, at our individual level, also need to take up our responsibility.


In his book ?Earth in the Balance?, published back in 1992, Al Gore already raised this. He pointed out that ?each of us must take a greater responsibility for the deteriorating global environment?. Fighting climate change indeed requires that we look at ourselves. It is a question of behaviour and of our personal commitment and responsibility. We need to respect each other?s environment as we need to respect each other. It is, ultimately, a moral issue.

Because of that, the environment goes together with democracy, human rights and social justice. And one way to translate this directly, is by adopting a ?common but differentiated approach?: we need to develop global standards and a common approach in the fight against climate change, but these must be applied in a differentiated way, in particular towards the developing world. We have a moral obligation to help the people who cannot contribute and who will suffer most from global warming.

One way of doing this, is by redirecting our development aid to take into account the effects of climate change. This is what Belgium is doing: for example, we are supporting the management of wetland resources and wildlife conservation in Tanzania, and we launched projects to combat the effects of drought and to improve water management in Morocco.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The fight against climate change is the responsibility of each and every one. We should all work together at preserving the environment, not just because of the dramatic scientific evidence of climate change, but because it is an obligation we have as respectful, responsible citizens in a globalized world.


Let me conclude the way I started: with our daughter Elisabeth.

She is only 6 and she is very proud to have given her name to the Belgian polar station on Antarctica. Belgium has over a century of tradition and expertise in polar exploration, but there are several reasons why we are especially proud of the Princess Elisabeth station.
1. It is the first zero-emission polar station in the world.
2. It has a 100% waste recycling rate.
3. It was built using eco-friendly construction materials.
4. Its use of energy will be clean and optimized, making the best possible use of wind and solar energy.
This station is a scientific establishment for geophysical monitoring and field research. Thousands of Belgians have sponsored parts of the building. Funding from the government and major corporations is substantial. Thus, it is also a beautiful example of Belgians working together at an exciting environmental project.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I conclude on an optimistic note. There is hope. There is opportunity. There is commitment by many people all around the world to work towards a common goal: to preserve our marvellous planet Earth for our children and for future generations.

I commend all of you for your own clear vision and your impressive achievements to date. You are showing the way. You have taken up responsibility. Together we can make our Globe a better place to live in. Thank you.