Belgium’s prime minister vowed on Thursday to do more to tackle climate change as he marked the first anniversary of devastating floods that killed 39 people in the country.
Record rainfall led to severe flooding in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands last July, killing more than 200 people, tearing down homes and forcing many residents to evacuate in inflatable dinghies. The disaster caused billions of euros in damage.
“One year ago, amidst the worst natural disaster our country has ever known, Belgium witnessed the birth of heroes,” Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said at a ceremony to remember the victims, in the eastern city of Liege, which was hard hit by the floods.
Paying tribute to residents of the affected towns and the emergency services, De Croo said the disaster should spur more ambitious action to tackle climate change, which scientists blame for increasingly destructive weather around the world.
“A year ago we promised ourselves that we would transform the destructive rage of nature into an exceptional force for action… We can and we must go further,” he said.
Climate scientists last year found that floods were made at least 20% more likely by climate change – reflecting a long-known principle that for every degree the atmosphere heats up, it can hold 7% more moisture, increasing the chance of heavy rain.
EU climate policy chief Frans Timmermans said on Thursday he would propose that the EU establishes an annual day of remembrance for people killed by climate change.