At the Climate Action Summit at the United Nations that took place on 23 September in New York, Belgian North Sea Minister Philippe De Backer (Open Vld) led a meeting on the importance of oceans and the maritime economy in the fight against climate change.
Belgium was able to present itself internationally as a small but ambitious nation that can and wants to play a leading role in the international community in crucial areas. As the Belgian maritime sector is a pioneer when it comes to sustainability and energy transition, Wilfried Lemmens, director of the Royal Belgian Shipowners’ Association, and Jacques Vandermeieren, CEO of the Port of Antwerp, were given the opportunity to explain with concrete figures how shipping and the port of Antwerp will be much less dependent on fossil fuels in the future by opting for other energy sources: from hydrogen to methanol to shore-based power.
EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, confirmed Belgium’s positive role. He reiterated the need to act more ambitiously and more quickly, because ‘people are today the worst enemies of the oceans’.
With a few figures, Vella underlined the urgency: if global warming is limited to 2 degrees Celsius this century, 30% of the species in the oceans will die out. By 2050, 150 million people will be threatened by the effects of rising sea levels.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres, in closing the Summit, said “You have delivered a boost in momentum, cooperation and ambition. But we have a long way to go. We need more concrete plans, more ambition from more countries and more businesses. We need all financial institutions, public and private, to choose, once and for all, the green economy.”