The BreatheLife network welcomes Wallonia, a region in the south of Belgium of over 3.6 million residents.
In the last years, the Walloon Region (or Wallonia) rolled out hybrid buses in several cities, including in the regional capital Namur, called for proposals to developed zero-waste municipalities, and began preparing an updated climate, energy and air quality plan that will replace the current one (2016 – 2022), to meet 2030 targets and obligations set by the European Union for those three areas.
The Walloon 2020 and 2030 air quality targets are derived from Belgium’s targets set by the EU directive 2016/2284. Based on this directive, the Walloon region has to reduce its PM2.5 emissions of 20 per cent for 2020 and of 39 per cent for 2030, compared to 2005 level. The Region also has specific commitments for the emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds and ammonia.
The Walloon Region is well on track to over achieve its 2020 reduction objectives for the PM2.5 and the four other air pollutants.
“We are currently preparing the next integrated “Air – Climate – Energy” reduction plan for 2030 based on analysis, studies, stakeholder meetings and public consultations,” said Minister of the Environment, Ecological Transition, Land-Use Planning, Public Works, Mobility, Transport, Animal Welfare and Business Parks, Carlo Di Antonio.
On climate policy, the region’s current climate target for sectors outside of the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) is a 14.7 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions compared to 2005 levels by 2020. The new target for Belgium under the Effort sharing regulation sets a reduction of 35 per cent in 2030 compared to 2005 level. The Walloon Region target is still to be determined as the Belgium target has to be shared across the three Regions of Belgium.
Emissions inventories show that atmospheric emissions of various pollutants decreased significantly in Wallonia leading to an overall improvement in air quality since the 1990s, improving its overall air quality, mainly due to decreased energy requirements and to a fivefold growth in the use of renewable energy sources from 1990 to 2010. These improvements are mainly due to:
• an ambitious policy in industrial sectors imposing improved emissions standards through permits and application of BATs but also to the closure of some large emitters in the steel industry;
• major improvements in energy efficiency, decreased energy requirements, growth of the use of renewable energy, building energy performances;
• implementation of the EU Euro standards in the transport sector; and
• implementation of the EU legislation on the standards of products.
Transport is now a major focus in terms of air pollution and greenhouse gas reduction. Besides working with cities to roll out the first fleets of electric buses, the regional government is preparing a new mobility strategy that will involve low emissions vehicles, more efficient mass transit, carpooling and cycling paths. It also includes a framework for implementing Low Emission Zones (LEZ) in the main cities and a progressive ban for petrol and diesel cars as from 2023.
A highlight on the waste management front was a fresh call for proposals from the regional government to municipalities for zero waste municipalities earlier this year after the success of an initial round last year.
Seasonal pollution can still be a problem, in particular, “pollution peaks”, large and rapid increases in particulate matter concentrations in the air (PM10, PM2.5), occurring in winter or spring when weather conditions prevent the dispersion of particles or when agricultural spreadings trigger high levels of secondary particulate concentrations.
When the concentrations rise to certain predetermined thresholds, the region triggers a plan managed by Walloon’s Air and Climate Agency (AWAC) in collaboration with the Regional Crisis Centre (CRC) and the Belgian Interregional Environment Agency (CELINE), to limit health and environmental impacts.
It can include road traffic management measures; alerts to the public and motorists, and advertisements to citizens to promote public transport use and and discourage wood heating; and industry- and municipality-specific plans in the most sensitive areas.
Pre-emptive measures include a campaign to raise awareness on good practices for open fires and wood-burning stoves, with new educational videos.
The Walloon Region also publishes air quality data online.
A powerhouse of the industrial revolution, the Walloon region’s dynamic clean air journey has the potential to inspire many similar regions and cities on their own transformations towards 2030.
Follow the Walloon region’s clean air journey here.
Banner photo by Stephane Mignon.