Flemish climate action in developing countries

On the initiative of and with funding from the Government of Flanders, G-STIC and the Department of Environment started the G-STIC Climate Action Programme to support developing countries and make them more resistant to climate consequences and to slow down further warming. To this end, the programme launched a call for climate projects in developing countries two years in a row. In 2022, 15.7 million euros in grants were given to 19 new projects.

The Global Risks Report 2023 states that the inability to mitigate or adapt to climate change is probably the most serious long-term threat to the world. The report emphasises, for the umpteenth time, how important it is to invest in the necessary tools and climate strategies – right now. This will take a collective effort.

 International cooperationThe Flemish government is helping to finance feasible solutions with this call for projects in the context of international climate financing. Within the Climate Action Programme projects are set up to add strength to the implementation of climate policy, strategies, regulations and action plans in developing countries. The call provides grants for projects in demonstration, dissemination and capacity-building that are implemented in developing countries where a Flemish organisation takes the lead. For the recruitment of projects, we collaborate with Cleantech Flanders and its network of innovative SMEs. In the 2022 call for projects, a total of 15.7 million euros in grants went to 19 projects; in 2021 it was 3.2 million euros for 13 projects. The more than 100 project applications in 2022 prove that many Flemish organisations are working on climate action and climate resilience.


Striving for international cooperation

With its international network, G-STIC is an important catalyst for connecting groups in Flanders with the right organisations in developing countries. This call is open to all types of undertakings: large companies, SMEs, NGOs, non-profit organisations, knowledge institutions, government institutions and consultancy firms. A good match is crucial for the success of complex projects that run over several years and connect partners all over the world.

One of the target groups is Flemish private companies. In order to reach this network in Flanders, Cleantech Flanders is a strategic partner. Through Cleantech Flanders Flemish cleantech companies can share knowledge, come into contact with like-minded people and further internationalise in order to bring Flemish cleantech solutions to international markets. For this reason, Cleantech Flanders is working closely with Flanders Investment & Trade. One cornerstone of the climate action projects is broad cooperation and exchanging knowledge and other resources.

The combination of G-STIC's international outreach and the cleantech community in Flanders has proven to be a strong basis for implementing climate projects led by a Flemish organisation in developing countries. Building on the solid results of 2021, a number of high-quality projects were added after the 2022 call. Here are some of the current projects.

Climate-proof decentralised drinking water production in Suriname

Suriname consists of 93% rainforest, so it has a lot of water. But the communities around the rivers in the rural interior of the country are vulnerable to variations in precipitation patterns due to extreme weather changes. They also have no access to safe drinking water. At present, they boil the river water on wood fires to make it safe to drink. This results in enormous CO2 emissions and has harmful consequences for health. Furthermore, there are water shortages in the dry season and in the rainy season the water is so polluted that even boiling it is no longer a solution.

Thanks to a unique collaboration between Howest University of Applied Sciences, VITO and the Ministry of Natural Resources in Suriname, BOSAQ will provide 13 villages with climate-proof and future-proof decentralised drinking water production. The river water will be treated locally with the BOSAQ Q-Drop water systems, linked to solar panels. These innovative systems work on the basis of nanofiltration and self-developed sensor technology. BOSAQ aims to avoid at least 2,300 more tonnes of CO2 emissions with this decentralised, energy-neutral technique than with the use of alternative centralised methods.

Restoring mangrove forests in Ecuador

On the other side of South America, in Ecuador, Jan De Nul is starting a pilot project for a new, nature-based solution to help restore the mangroves in the Guayas River delta. The region around this delta is very vulnerable to extreme weather events such as flooding and this will only increase due to the impact of climate change. The delta has a historic loss of mangrove forests, which means that the communities living along the river face a higher exposure to flooding, among other things. Using an innovative approach, this project will restore mangrove forests with dredging sludge in a circular and sustainable manner and improve dykes as protection against a rise in sea level and extreme events.

Mangrove forests are important carbon sinks. When restored, more CO2 will be absorbed from the air, resulting in climate mitigation. This also leads to coastline restoration and climate adaptation. The unique natural restoration approach should enable greater species diversity, consequently boosting local biodiversity. Jan de Nul is striving for sustainable socio-economic development of the delta with this project.

Obtaining energy from rivers and lakes in Colombia

75% of the energy in Colombia goes to electricity, heating and cooling. Two Flemish cleantech startups EXTRAQT and Turbulent are collaborating to develop practical decarbonisation solutions. They are exploring both the potential of aquathermal technologies and micro-hydropower for urban and rural areas along Colombia's rivers and lakes.

EXTRAQT is investigating the potential of aquathermal energy, whereby surface water is used to sustainably heat and cool buildings. Turbulent is examining the potential of micro-hydropower to generate sustainable electricity. These are two feasible, practical, sustainable and cheap solutions for generating energy from rivers and lakes. The technologies not only expand the renewable energy playing field for the country, but also create jobs, boost growth and help fight climate change. So they perfectly meet both our energy needs and our social and ecological requirements. Colombia has an extensive network of rivers and lakes, making it an ideal country to explore the potential of these two techniques.

Emission-free solar thermal energy technology in Namibia

Now to Africa. In Okahandja, Namibia, AB-Inbev and Heliovis are joining forces to launch a groundbreaking project that demonstrates the potential of advanced solar thermal technology for sustainable brewing.  Traditionally, the thermal energy used in brewing accounts for up to 70% of total energy consumption and most breweries rely heavily on fossil energy for this. This project aims to demonstrate that the emission-free solar thermal energy technology is ready for commercial application and that emissions from brewing can be substantially reduced. If this project turns out to be successful, the technology can also be used in other – suitable – breweries.

The climate in Namibia is extremely suitable for the production of solar energy, so this location offers an excellent opportunity to test and demonstrate the innovative solar collectors for industrial processes.

New, high-resolution climatological information for better implementation of climate plans in Mozambique and Zimbabwe

Along the Buzi, Pungwe and Save river basins in Mozambique and Zimbabwe lies a region that is highly susceptible to natural disasters. According to the predictions, the threat will further increase as a result of climate change. To confront these challenges, the governments of both countries have begun to identify vulnerabilities and define adaptation priorities. Antea Group Belgium and UNESCO will use their technology, knowledge and local anchoring to obtain customised climate scenarios and risk analysis, with a higher resolution for the entire area than the local authorities currently have.

This publicly available information should help the design of optimal climate measures, raise awareness and train local communities. The Belgian company will train local experts in climate downscaling and in the interpretation and application of the sophisticated climatological information. These activities will facilitate the implementation of national adaptation plans in both countries.

In addition to these initiatives, the G-STIC Climate Action Programme also supports projects in Central America, SIDS (small island developing states) and India, all of which can be found in an overview.


The need for cleantech innovation for the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals

A study by Eurostat shows that there is an urgent need for innovation in the domain of clean technology. The publication provides an overview of progress per country in the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) based on the European set of indicators for Sustainable Development Goals. The individual Sustainable Development Goals are placed on a scale per country, with the country with the worst score on one side and the country with the best score on the other. Belgium scores above average for many Sustainable Development Goals compared to other countries. The only goal for which Belgium does not achieve a high indicator score is the sixth Sustainable Development Goal, ‘Clean water and sanitation’. Belgium also seems to be moving in the opposite direction of the desired SDG trajectory for Sustainable Development Goal 15, ‘Life on land’.

Image SDGs compared to other countries
SDGs compared to other countries


Dietrich Van der Weken and Ilke Geleyn
G-STIC: Global Sustainable Technology & Innovation Community

Dietrich Van der Weken General Manager G-STIC: Global Sustainable Technology & Innovation Community
General Manager
Ilke Geleyn
Programme manager