A lever for climate action in developing countries

Chris Simoens
17 June 2019
Find out how the FPS Public Health helps developing countries meet their climate commitments.

Almost all countries have signed the Paris Climate Agreement, subscribing to a large number of obligations: the signatory countries must not only ramp up their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they are also expected to regularly report on the impact of their policies and to come up with more ambitious climate plans. A rather complicated task.


Greenhouse gas emissions inventory

They are, for instance, asked to submit a greenhouse gas emissions inventory, the foundation of any climate commitment. In order to identify opportunities to reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions, countries first need to take stock of their situation. How much do various sectors such as agriculture, industry and transport contribute to greenhouse gas emissions? Not easy to calculate.

The inventory makes it possible to predict future emissions, which enables countries to set greenhouse gas reduction targets. In the run-up to the Paris Agreement, each country already submitted its so-called Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) - i.e. its intended contribution to greenhouse gas emissions reduction - to the UNFCCC, the UN climate agency. In Paris, it was agreed that countries would be required to regularly report in detail on the progress of their policies.

In short, carrying out the Climate Agreement requires substantial work and expertise. Belgium’s climate policy and reporting are the joint responsibility of the federal government and the regions. The Federal Public Service for Public Health (FPS Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment) coordinates the federal contribution. It has its own experts or hires them.

The situation is different in developing countries, who often have to deal with understaffed services and have less experience and fewer resources to pay experts. Therefore the international community provides support in order to enable these countries to fulfil their commitments.


Our approach is interesting in that there is a real demand from the countries themselves. As a result, they feel more like the 'owners' of a project that is well thought out.

Patricia Grobben

Annual call for projects

Belgium also wants to make a contribution. “We only have a limited annual budget of about 300,000 euros,” says Patricia Grobben, who works for the International Cooperation Unit of the Federal Climate Change Department of the FPS Public Health. “That is why we looked for a niche where we could make a difference, and that is going rather well.”

Since 2016, the Federal Climate Change Department has launched an annual call for projects in 30 countries: the 14 partner countries of the Belgian Development Cooperation and the remaining French-speaking countries in the South. In the context of the first call, three countries each received support of approximately 100,000 euros, while for the second call, two countries each received support worth 150,000 euros. As we currently have a caretaker government, the 2019 budget will be used within the framework of the NDC Partnership, of which Belgium is a member.

“Our approach is interesting in that there is a real demand from the countries themselves,” says Grobben, ”as a result, they feel more like the 'owners' of a project that is well thought out.” The demanding countries have to make an effort to elaborate their project, knowing there is a reasonable chance that they will not be selected. Quite a guarantee for a strong motivation.

Five countries have received support so far. Niger and Rwanda, for example, were able to install an IT tool that enables them to continuously monitor their greenhouse gas emissions and make their own calculations, so that they no longer have to rely on (expensive) consultants.

Ivory Coast receives support for the development of a method aimed at including climate change and biodiversity in national and local agriculture and forestry planning exercises. Palestine, which had already outlined its NDC with the support of the Belgian Development Cooperation, receives help in formulating action plans for some of its measures in the energy and agriculture sectors. Finally, Cameroon was assisted in developing a national institutional framework for drawing up its greenhouse gas emissions inventory.

African men and women are bent over a building plan.
© Dieter Telemans

Leverage effect

“We can say that we are really helping the selected countries and that, as a small player, we have been able to create a leverage effect,” says Grobben. For example, Rwanda has submitted a one million dollars project to the CBIT (Capacity Building Initiative for Transparency) which builds on the IT tool they have obtained through the support of Belgium. Ivory Coast expressed its great satisfaction to the UN Development Programme (UNDP) for the method they have developed with the support of Belgium and its intention to deploy it in the energy and waste sectors. Cameroon was able to devote some of its national budget on the purchase of the necessary computer equipment, as its national contribution to the project supported by Belgium.

The Federal Climate Change Department also assists developing countries in other ways. For example, it actively participates in the clusters of French and Portuguese-speaking countries in the framework of the Partnership for Transparency under the Paris Agreement. The aim of the partnership is to exchange experiences, in both languages, between experts from these countries in order to enable them to report more transparently on their policies and to increase their expertise. Grobben: “Many of the tools and manuals provided by the UN Climate Agency and the International Climate Panel only exist in English, but some have been translated into French and Portuguese with Belgian support”.

For maximum impact, it is therefore important that Belgium deploys its resources as efficiently as possible through increased cooperation, with everyone using their own expertise and instruments.

Patricia Grobben

Finally, the Federal Climate Change Department also cooperates with the various Belgian entities involved in development cooperation: the federal Directorate-General for Development Cooperation (DGD), the Belgian Development Agency (Enabel), the Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries (BIO), Finexpo, regional entities, … Grobben: ”The budget for development cooperation is decreasing, even though climate financing should be increased in the future. For maximum impact, it is therefore important that Belgium deploys its resources as efficiently as possible through increased cooperation, with everyone using their own expertise and instruments”.

The FPS Public Health clearly does not want to act alone. In addition to initiatives to assist developing countries, it also wants to share its expertise that can be useful for development cooperation, thereby contributing to a favourable image of Belgium abroad.


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About the same theme - Article 3 /13 A climate-neutral Europe by 2050