Background and context

In December 2021, the National Security Council (NSC) agreed on the Belgian national security strategy. The natural environment herein, is identified as one of the 6 vital interests for the country. Disruptions in our natural environment and climate change are cited among the main risks Belgium is faced with. Extreme weather events, which can lead to damage to infrastructure and can have consequences for public health, transitional risks and socio-economic risks are mentioned. Among the policy orientations in the strategy, the importance of an integrated approach is underlined, as well as the need to strengthen resilience.

CERAC, which also reports to the NSC, will initially focus on the risks related to climate change and the loss of biodiversity. It will over time consider risks related to the other planetary boundaries as well. The aim is to provide the NSC with a holistic and integrated risk assessment related to the natural environment to contribute to the country’s overall resilience.

CERAC is intended to be a hub between scientific research, policymaking, and practical implementation. Addressing climate and environment risks requires a 'whole of society approach'. Through multidisciplinary research and collaboration, CERAC aims to propose innovative solutions.

Long-term investments to defend against climate change and other environment threats

We will need investments along the four axes that are also valid for efficient and effective long-term climate-defense:

  • time (proactivity, prevention, preparation, and aftercare
  • space (local, supralocal, regional and (inter)national),
  • social networks (coordination between different security actors)
  • knowledge area (multidisciplinary approach).

This leads to several questions:

  • Do we invest in option A, option B, Y, ..?
  • At what speed?
  • And what will that combination cost?
  • Who can cooperate in the most effective way, and who should?
  • What and which capacity building is needed?
  • What will be the future cost of not investing now?

Whether it involves building new water management systems or revising transportation infrastructure (new or in an end-of-life replacement planning), each step must consider the potential climate -and environment impact and can encompass topics like nature based solutions. Strategic planning and investment can not only increase resilience to environmental challenges but also contribute to a more secure and sustainable future. In our current world with geopolitical challenges “dual use” technology initiatives and investments are increasingly deployed because of the intertwined nature of security and climate challenges. The preferred options provide benefits now, and in the future. They also add value even following different projected climate change scenario’s. Such no-regret-measures are more likely to gain political support.

Viewing through the lens of European regulations and initiatives, including the CER directive, CERAC emphasizes the need for resilient systems capable of withstanding the unpredictability of climate change and the crossing of other planetary boundaries.

Read more in our section Planetary Boundaries.

Risks (hazard, vulnerability and exposure)

With the aim of strengthening our country's resilience CERAC will conduct complex and multi-disciplinary risk assessments on the mid to long term.

The UN IPCC, in the assessment of the second working group on the impacts, adaptation and vulnerabilities related to climate change (2022) indeed emphasized that climate change impacts and risks are becoming increasingly complex and more difficult to manage. Multiple climate hazards will occur simultaneously, and multiple climatic and non-climatic risks will interact, resulting in compounding overall risk and risks cascading across sectors and regions. Some responses to climate change result in new impacts and risks.

The complex and multi-disciplinary dimensions of the risk assessment in the mid to long term are therefore essential. Climate risks assessments require detailed consideration of all aspects of risk (hazard, vulnerability, and exposure), of the possible interactions between multiple risks (across sectors) as well as possible cascading effects. Climate risk assessments imply working on different spatial scales (local, national, global) and different temporal scales and therefore require adoption in most safety and security foresight risk assessments from municipal to country and global scale.

Read more in our methodology section


It is important to highlight the necessity of understanding and managing these connections to ensure resilience and effective responses to societal challenges. It underscores the complexities of analyzing these interdependencies, which require deep knowledge across various sectors and sophisticated analytical capabilities. This emphasizes the necessity of a holistic approach, where strategic objectives are not viewed in isolation but as part of interconnected systems within Belgium and beyond. This perspective is critical for managing societal risks, including those related to climate change and environmental threats.

For Belgium, in the medium to long term, climate change poses significant risks that necessitate understanding these strategic interdependencies. In security context this theme if often called a threat multiplicator, “adding chaos to chaos”. They will have forceful and longer-term effect on emergency situations and will make “return to normal” an extra challenge, whereas climate change will confront us with future “to be” situations, depending on which Shared Socio-Economic Pathway Scenario.

Examples include the impact of energy sector resilience on the continuity of government and essential services, and how disruptions in one area can lead to cascading effects across others, such as healthcare, food and water supply, and public order. This approach is crucial for Belgium to prepare for, mitigate, and adapt to the effects of climate change, including the increased frequency of extreme weather events, rising sea levels affecting coastal areas, and potential disruptions to agriculture and food security. CERAC suggests a comprehensive and integrated foresight approach with all competent partners in strategic planning and crisis management, recognizing that challenges like climate change are multifaceted and require coordinated responses across different sectors and objectives.

Roles, competences, and actors

The core business of a state throughout history is the guaranteeing the safety of people, goods and the state itself. Safety is an “umbrella term that both enables and conceals a very diverse array of governing practices, budgetary practices, political and legal practices, and social and cultural values and habits (Valverde, 2001)”.

The issue of safety, security, and resilience in Belgium is further complicated by the variety of roles, competences, and actors involved in environment and climate policy. The complexity of the Belgian federal system, where both federal and regional authorities play key roles in addressing environment challenges adds to this complexity. Therefore collaboration between government agencies, non-profit organizations, and the business sector is essential for effective risk management. Recent examples of this cooperation on a larger scale are made by the EU and NATO by their joint declaration for cooperation on security implications of climate change in January 2023 and the joint task-force to enhance the resilience of critical infrastructure, March 2023.