The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Government of Wallonia, Belgium, today signed a record €1.1 billion finance contract for the Walloon Region. This will finance its energy efficiency and flood resilience and rebuilding projects. It is the largest amount ever financed by the EIB in a single operation in Belgium.
The various policies of the Government of Wallonia have expressed very high ambitions in terms of energy efficiency and resilience and reconstruction following the serious damage caused by the floods in July.
Wishing to diversify its sources of financing as far as possible, the Walloon Government had contacted the EIB more than a year ago with a view to benefiting from funds enabling the region to finance its ambitious public housing renovation plan.
In the aftermath of the terrible floods that hit Wallonia in July, the Walloon Government and the EIB entered into contact once again. The EIB offered to cover some of the costs of rebuilding embankments destroyed or damaged during the floods.
The Walloon Government and the EIB today concluded a finance contract for a record €1.1 billion, the initial €600 million tranche of which will be available immediately. These funds will be used to finance two packages of measures:
Energy efficiency renovation of social housing: €800 million
The government has mobilised €1.2 billion for the energy efficiency renovation of around 25 000 public housing units in Wallonia. €800 million will be financed through the EIB. The aim is to renovate apartments and houses and perform work to reduce energy use, thereby cutting greenhouse gas emissions. With an average investment of €46 700 per home, the work performed will generate noticeable returns in terms of safety, health and comfort, and will deliver substantial savings on the energy bills of households in the most financially precarious situations.
The reconstruction of approximately 230 km of damaged non-navigable watercourse embankments: €300 million
The government has mobilised €441.6 million to rebuild embankments on watercourses affected by the floods in July. €300 million will be financed through the EIB. This will be used to finance the resilient reconstruction of embankments to limit future risks. On the ground, the important and vital stage of cleaning and dredging the watercourses affected by flooding is drawing to a close. Securing and stabilisation work deemed of high priority to ensure the safety of people and their homes has started. 5 000 points requiring repair have been identified in the Vesdre basin alone. The Walloon Region is coordinating the reconstruction sites. Additional hydromorphological studies will be carried out to ensure the best possible preparation for the rebuilding of the embankments according to the evolution of the watercourse.
These packages of measures are fully in line with the EIB's climate action in its role as the EIB climate bank. Its priorities are set out in its Climate Bank Roadmap, which is itself aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement. In this framework, it supports both climate adaptation and climate mitigation via greenhouse gas emission reductions.
Minister-President of Wallonia Elio Di Rupo said: “Despite the ongoing difficult circumstances, Wallonia must continue to pursue an ambitious climate transition investment policy. This takes the form of various projects under the region's recovery plan. July's floods reinforced this need even further. The partnership with the EIB is part of this and I am pleased that such an organisation is committed to helping Wallonia to achieve its goals, in this case in terms of energy efficiency and flood resilience.”
At the signing ceremony, EIB Vice-President -Kris Peeters said: ““We are delighted to sign this financial partnership with the Walloon Government — for a record amount in Belgium — which shows the EIB's confidence and firm commitment, as it covers over three-quarters of the cost of the projects submitted by the region. This ambitious programme for which we are joining forces will save lives and help protect against future floods. It will make those living in renovated homes more comfortable and enable energy savings. The programme will also help to boost the Walloon economy while cutting its carbon footprint. Implementing it in just a few years is a real challenge, but will be key to Wallonia's future in the face of the climate crisis.”
Walloon Budget Minister Jean-Luc Crucke added: “This might be a loan we have to repay — but the terms are excellent. This diversification of funding sources is sound and is part of the strategy applied for a number of years. I am pleased that an institution like the EIB has placed its trust in us, implementing its largest operation in Belgium.”
Walloon Housing Minister Christophe Collignon said: “This financing will be used for ambitious regional investments in housing to enable 25 000 low and middle-income families to live better against the backdrop of the climate transition and regional economic recovery. It's a perfect example of the shared-benefit recovery policy that the Walloon Government wants to pursue in order to ensure the well-being of all following the crisis, doing so in a sustainable way.”
Environment Minister Céline Tellier concluded: “This summer’s floods are a cruel manifestation of the early effects of climate change in our region. We can only limit future risks by rebuilding with these climate changes in mind. We are working in this direction in full cooperation with the municipalities and the Office of the Commissioner for Reconstruction, to ensure we have no regrets in rebuilding our region in the face of future risks. It is our moral duty to everyone affected.”
About the European Investment Bank (EIB)
Operating in around 160 countries, the EIB is the world's largest multilateral lender to climate action projects.
With a view to becoming the EU climate bank, the EIB has adopted an ambitious programme aiming to support the mobilisation of €1 trillion in climate action and environmental sustainability investment from 2021 to 2030, and to bring the share of its investment it dedicates to these areas to 50% by 2025. In line with its Climate Bank Roadmap, all new EIB Group operations will be aligned with the objectives and principles of the Paris Agreement from the beginning of 2021. This is its climate action priority.
In Belgium, the Bank has also been committed to supporting the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency for many years. It has financed projects in various sectors of the Belgian economy with sustainable development components. Find out more about the EIB in Belgium and its activities in 2020.
For more information on the EIB in general, visit www.eib.org, where you can also find out more about its action for the water and social housing sectors.
About the Walloon Region:
Wallonia, or the Walloon Region, is a federal region with legislative power, which has specific bodies and remits within the Belgian Federal State.
Founded in 1970, its institutions were properly established in 1980. Since then, State reforms have continued to increase its autonomy and extend its mandate. These have been implemented by the Parliament of Wallonia and the Walloon Government, and seconded by the Public Service of Wallonia, public-interest organisations and the ombudsman.
Its current remit includes: the economy, employment, training, research, external trade, housing, social action, health, personal assistance, family, family benefits, land development, public works, transport, mobility, energy, local authorities, sports infrastructure, tourism, the environment, water, agriculture, rural renovation, nature conservation and international relations, within the framework of regional affairs.
On 17 November, the European Investment Bank (EIB) Board of Directors gave its in-principle approval for financing of €1.1 billion for the Walloon Region to support its energy efficiency and flood resilience projects. It should be implemented rapidly via financial agreements to be finalised soon by the EIB teams and the Walloon Region.
With this new commitment, the EIB has lent Société Publique de Gestion de l’Eau (SPGE) EUR 1 billion since 2004 to speed up these vital investments in Wallonia. The fact is that Belgium, and the Walloon Region in particular, were found to be severely lagging behind in the application of the water management measures set out in the EU directive on urban wastewater treatment – a situation that is now being rectified by the ambitious programme implemented by SPGE.
Operational teams of EIB managers and experts, led by Vice-President Pim van Ballekom, visited Namur on Monday morning to meet public and private project operators and the competent authorities from the Walloon Region. This visit was designed to present the EIB's financing opportunities in concrete terms, backed by examples for illustration purposes. This unprecedented work seminar in Belgium was welcomed unanimously by the participants.