At the first-ever Climate Adaptation Summit on Monday, IFAD Goodwill Ambassadors and Global Citizen advocates Idris and Sabrina Elba spoke with Belgium Prime Minister Alexander De Croo to learn how to best fight and adapt to climate change.
Recent years have been defined by increasing climate change that has wreaked havoc on the world’s most vulnerable people and caused extreme weather conditions worldwide. As a champion of climate action, De Croo is advocating for increased efforts in order to avoid detrimental damage to the planet and vulnerable populations.
De Croo became prime minister of Belgium in October 2020 and previously held roles as the deputy prime minister and minister of finance, and minister of development coordination. Now, he is working to ensure that Belgium is a central player in the fight against climate change.
He is a strong believer that Europe should lead the world toward climate neutrality and help develop sustainable technologies that can be used around the world, according to Reuters.
Here’s what De Croo had to say to the Elbas about the importance of working together to create a more sustainable future for all.
Idris Elba: In your opinion, what is the most effective way for us to start dealing with some of the challenges of climate and why is it important to be thinking about building long-term resilience to these challenges?
Prime Minister De Croo: I grew up in a very rural place in Belgium and I still live there. There are a lot of agricultural activities and we see the impact of climate change.
The droughts are much longer. When it rains, it is much more intense. We see that farmers are just losing their fertile ground because it's washing away.
I think by now everyone is starting to see the impact of climate change. The key challenge that I see is: How do we tackle this and how do we make it possible for everyone, even for small farmers, small farmers in Belgium, but also small farmers around the world, to handle this?
We see throughout the world that if women get involved, it is just being handled in a different way.
I think there are two big elements.
One of them is technology. Technology will be the solution. The whole question is how do you make technology accessible to everyone and how do you speed it up?
We don't have the comfort of time. If we want to be able to tackle this, we need to find ways for the technology that is under development, that is ready to be tested, to roll it out on such a massive scale to be able to also have a massive effect.
We’re going to play a role in this. And my experience as a minister of development, and it's also a topic which is really close to my heart, is that gender does play an important role. And we see throughout the world that if women get involved, it is just being handled in a different way.
And we see that the impact that it can have in giving, for example, farmers a living income. If women are part of this, that income is being used in a much more productive way toward society.
Sabrina Elba: I would be really interested to hear your thoughts on the linkages between how food is being farmed and produced, ending hunger, and also the impacts on health and nutrition.
Prime Minister De Croo: I think that this worldwide crisis which we are confronted with now, some people say this is the end of the global view that we have. I don't agree with that. I think that more than ever we realized how connected we are one way or another.
And more than ever, I think we realize that no one, in regards to COVID, no one is going to be safe unless everyone is safe. And I think that the link to climate change is actually a very easy one to be made if we see that certain parts of the world remain in dire misery and in poverty.
Idris Elba: What do you think the position for the youth is in the climate adaptation conversation and in agriculture?
First of all, this is about their future. This is the next generation and they will be confronted with the things that we have not tackled today.
I'm convinced that my generation is the first generation that sees the impact of climate change. And we're probably also the last generation that can do something about it.
If we don't do it, the generation which is coming after us — they won't be able to tackle it anymore because it's this exponential evolution that we've seen so often these days in COVID, and that exponential evolution is exactly the same in climate change.
I know no better friends of nature than farmers.
The second reason is that the young generation is incredibly entrepreneurial. They're incredibly ambitious. I've seen it for the last five years. I've traveled to so many places in Africa, and I’ve always done such an effort to explain in my home country that young people have the same mindset if they grew up in Boston or they grew up in Brussels or they grew up in Kinshasa.
They want to do things. They want to do things because they want to improve the environment which they have around. The mindset of an entrepreneur is seeing something and saying this can be done in a better way.
As I said, I grew up in an agricultural region. I know no better friends of nature than farmers. Farmers know that their subsistence, their life is dependent on finding a balance with nature, and farmers always have a long-term perspective because they know that that’s the only way they can survive.
Idris Elba: If you could give other world leaders a message, considering where we've come from and considering what we know, what would that message be?
Prime Minister De Croo: Well, I think that more than ever, we all realize that we're in this together and we're all in this. We can only go forward if we work together. We humans can do tremendous things, we can do amazing things, and that’s our choice.
If we get at the table and we bring our problems and we bring our resentments, one against another, then we will go down a very slippery path.
But if we bring to the table what we're best at, and if you try to get the best out of everyone, you can do amazing things.
Look at what we've done in the development of vaccines. We have done this in nine months’ time. It's amazing what humans can do, and it's amazing what we can do when we're confronted by a crisis.
I think COVID has shown us what we can do if we’re confronted by a crisis, but there is another crisis, and that climate crisis is as severe as the COVID crisis. And it should be a lesson for the climate crisis.
Let's bring to the table what we’re best at and then we can do amazing things.