Belgium Climate Resilience Policy Indicator

This report is part of Climate Resilience Policy Indicator

About this report

Country summary

  • Belgium’s average temperature rose approximately 2°C between 1830 and 2010, with extreme heat events becoming more frequent and intense. Climate projections indicate a continued increase in temperature that is likely to affect electricity consumption patterns and power grid management.
  • Precipitation has increased in Belgium particularly during winter. The frequency of extreme precipitation events increased significantly over the past decades. Projections to 2100 indicate that precipitation is expected to continue increasing in winter while decreasing in summer. Extreme precipitation events are projected to become more frequent, with heavy winter rainfalls and summer thunderstorms escalating the risk of flooding.
  • Belgium has national and regional plans for climate change adaptation, all of which acknowledge the importance of a climate-resilient energy system. The National Adaptation Plan (NAP) 2017-2020, developed by the National Climate Commission, considers energy one of six key sectors and proposes specific measures to increase energy supply security. Energy plans are closely linked with climate adaptation plans, although the focuses of energy plans are generally more on mitigation rather than adaptation and resilience. The government is currently working on updating the NAP, which will contribute to enhancing adaptation and resilience activities strengthening the link between energy and adaptation policies. In this process, a package of federal adaptation measures was approved by the Council of Ministers in March 2023 with a specific implementation plan.

Climate hazard assessment

Level of floods, droughts and tropical cyclones in Belgium, 2000-2020


Level of warming in Belgium, 2000-2020



Belgium’s average annual temperature rose roughly 2°C between 1830 and 2010. The warming rate accelerated in the 1910s and the 1980s, with an increase in maximum temperature in the 1910s and a rise in both maximum and minimum temperatures in the 1980s.

Belgium’s rate of temperature rise during the last two decades (+0.029°C per decade) was close to the global average (+0.031°C per decade). Temperatures increased across all seasons, with only moderate geographical differences. Since 1981, the average winter temperature has risen 0.45°C per decade, while for other seasons the increase ranges from 0.31°C to 0.40°C per decade. Belgium has also experienced a rising frequency and intensity of extreme heat. Since 1980, the number of days above 25°C has expanded, while annual record-high temperatures have risen 0.85°C per decade.

Furthermore, heatwave frequency, intensity and length have increased. Although Belgium had been rarely exposed to heatwaves, they occurred every year during the 2015-2019 period. Heatwave intensity has been increasing since 1981, with new maximum temperature records being set in some places. During 1988-2016, the average length of heatwaves expanded to 11 days – more than double the 5 days of 1901-1930.

Urban areas have a higher rate of warming than rural ones due to the urban heat island effect, wherein urban areas with a high concentration of buildings, roads and other infrastructure become “islands” of higher temperature relative to outlying areas. In fact, the average temperature difference between cities and the countryside could be as much as 7‑8°C. The urban heat island effect, accentuated by heatwaves, is expected to further boost energy demand for air conditioning and drive up electricity consumption in urban areas.

Climate projections show continual warming to 2100, with the average annual temperature in 2100 being 0.7‑5°C higher than the average of 1961-1990, depending on the level of GHG concentration.1 The temperature in all seasons is projected to rise, with maximum increases ranging from 4.6°C in winter to 7°C in summer under a high-emissions scenario.2

Belgium’s National Adaptation Plan (NAP) estimates that climate change can have very serious impacts on electricity consumption and power grid management. Temperature increases have already altered electricity consumption patterns by reducing the number of heating degree days (HDDs) and augmenting cooling degree days (CDDs). In addition, extreme heat events could reduce the grid’s maximum power transmission capacity. The grid operator (Elia) has stated that it must limit electricity transmission when the air temperature exceeds 30°C to prevent cable deformation. During the 2018 heatwave, electricity transmission in Belgium had to be reduced by up to 5% to prevent potential damage to the electricity network.

Temperature in Belgium, 2000-2020


Cooling degree days in Belgium, 2000-2020


Heating degree days in Belgium, 2000-2020



Belgium’s average precipitation has been increasing over the past decades at a rate of 50 mm per decade, with high annual and seasonal variability. Analysis of long-term trends (from 1833 to 2016) reveals that the rise in rainfall is evident only in winter, with changes in other seasons merely negligible. Climate projections of Belgium’s Seventh National Communication under the UNFCCC show that precipitation is likely to be as much as 36% higher in the winter by 2100,3 while it could be 53% lower in summer. Although the total precipitation is likely to increase in winter, the amount of snow the country receives has been declining, while rainfall increasing.

The frequency of extreme rainfall events has also increased significantly. Heavy rainfall occurs mostly in the summer, during thunderstorms. In May 2018, heavy precipitation in the Liege area led to flooding in 20 municipalities, disrupting electricity and water supplies.

However, the combination of lower summer precipitation and higher evaporation due to warming could cause minimum river runoff levels in dry summers to decline more than 50% by 2100.4 This drop in river runoff may affect hydropower production and could put pressure on thermal power plants by limiting the availability of cooling water during dry periods.

Tropical cyclones and storms

Although Belgium’s physical exposure to tropical cyclones is low, the country has been affected by storms during the past three decades.5 Although there is no apparent trend in storm intensity or frequency, 13 storms were recorded from 1992 to 2016, with various effects on the energy sector. In December 2020, the storm Bella boosted wind power generation to a record-breaking level, while other storms such as Ciara and Egon disrupted electricity supplies to thousands of households.

Policy readiness for climate resilience

Belgium’s climate policies tackle energy sector climate resilience at various levels. Adopted in 2010, the Belgian National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy was followed by five regional and national adaptation plans: the Flemish Adaptation Plan (2013), the Brussels Integrated Air-Climate-Energy Plan (2016), the Walloon Air-Climate-Energy Plan (2016), the Federal Contribution to the National Adaptation Plan (2016) and finally the National Adaptation Plan (NAP) 2017-2020.

The NAP, which complements the pre‑existing Flemish, Brussels Capital, Walloon, and Federal adaptation plans, was developed by the National Climate Commission (NCC) based on the 2013 Federal Contribution to a Coherent Climate Adaptation Policy. The NCC is a body created in 2002 to ensure the co‑ordination of Belgian climate policy at the national level. Its Federal Contribution report’s dedicated section on energy identifies three possible future actions: continuous consultation among the authorities; research on electricity storage to balance electricity demand and supply; and studies of tools and levers for better energy sector adaptation.

Based on the Federal Contribution report’s recommendations, the NAP designates energy as one of its six key sectors. Its energy sector-specific measure is to increase energy supply security by evaluating the impacts of climate change on electricity supply, transport infrastructure and energy distribution.

In addition to this targeted energy measure, the NAP suggests other adaptation actions that may also enhance energy sector climate resilience. For example, developing high-resolution climate scenarios based on the project (COmbining Regional Downscaling EXpertise in Belgium) to improve co‑ordination and information exchange among the different governments would help the energy sector better cope with climate hazards.

Belgium has identified sources of funding to implement its policies, demonstrating commitment to fulfil the goals of its national plans. While some NAP actions are funded directly from the NCC budget, others have different sources of financing (e.g., the Belgian Science Policy programme to support the project). For federal/ regional action plans and local support, financing comes from federal/regional governments, and implementation and monitoring of the regional/federal plans are assured by the same representatives that compose the National Working Group.

Despite the country’s efforts, the final evaluation of the NAP published in March 2020 said that climate change impacts on energy supply security and on energy transport and distribution infrastructure had not yet really been taken into account owing to a lack of strong interest and the urgency of other issues. The evaluation suggested developing a proposal for an adaptation strategy within the framework of the Green Deal, in continuation of the country’s work. The government is therefore in the process of updating the NAP.

In this process, a package of federal adaptation measures was approved by the Council of Ministers in March 2023 under the title “Towards a climate change resilient society by 2050 – Federal adaptation measures 2023-2026”. This document includes 28 federal adaptation measures of eight policy areas6 emphasising the importance of mainstreaming adaptation into existing policies and legislations. For the energy sector, implementation of energy saving measures for federal; analysis of climate change impacts on energy services; and assessment of climate impacts on energy security and infrastructure by mapping sensitive areas are proposed. The document also specifies a schedule for implementation, monitoring indicators and entities in charge.

National energy policies also mention the importance of climate resilience with reference to the NAP. Belgium’s 2019 National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) states that the country will continue implementing the NAP and its updates – particularly the measure to assess climate change impacts on energy supply security and on transmission and distribution infrastructure – to reinforce energy sector resilience to climate change risks. This shows the coherence and links between the NECP and the NAP.

Additionally, the NCC commissioned an Evaluation of the Socio-economic Impact of Climate Change in Belgium (2020) to elucidate the physical risks of climate change and the development of effective adaptation plans and measures. The report analyses climate impacts on electricity generation, transmission and demand, and it estimates that the cost of climate change for the energy sector could increase by EUR 22 million per year to 2050 under a high-emissions scenario if no adaptation measures are taken.7 The greatest economic impacts of climate change result from higher electricity transport and distribution losses as well as lower winter heating requirements.

  1. According to IPCC climate scenarios RCP 2.6 and RCP 8.5.

  2. According to IPCC climate scenario RCP 8.5.

  3. According to IPCC climate scenario RCP 8.5.

  4. From 20% in the least unfavourable scenario to 70% in the most unfavourable scenario, according to the CCI-HYDR wet, moderate and dry climate scenarios.

  5. “Storms” refer to any disturbed state of the atmosphere, strongly implying destructive and unpleasant weather, and can range in scale. “Tropical cyclone” is the general term for a strong, cyclonic-scale disturbance that originates over tropical oceans. Although this report uses these terms generally, they can be divided into detailed categories: a tropical storm is a tropical cyclone with one-minute average surface winds of 18‑32 m/s. Beyond 32 m/s, a tropical cyclone is called a hurricane, typhoon or cyclone depending on its geographic location. Hurricanes refer to the high-intensity cyclones that form in the South Atlantic, central North Pacific and eastern North Pacific; typhoons occur in the northwest Pacific; and the more general term cyclone applies to the South Pacific and Indian oceans.

  6. The eight policy areas are research, biodiversity, infrastructure, natural resources, public health, risk and crisis management, international co-operation and awareness-raising.

  7. According to IPCC climate scenario RCP 8.5.