The BreatheLife network welcomes Walloon, a region in the south of Belgium of over 3.6 million residents.
In the last year, Walloon (or Wallonie) rolled out electric buses in several cities, including regional capital Namur, called for proposals to developed zero-waste municipalities, and began preparing an updated climate, energy and air quality strategy that will replace the current one (2016 – 2022), to meet its 2030 targets and obligations in all three areas under the European Union.
Those 2030 air quality targets are derived from Belgium’s targets in the EU directive 2016/2284, and includes Walloon’s PM2.5 emission ceiling of 8.8kt of PM2.5 in 2030, towards the national target of a 39 per cent reduction on 2005 levels.
Air quality targets for the region are also due to expand under national obligations to the Gothenburg Protocol to the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution.
A December 2013 amendment requiring member states like Belgium to develop a National Program for the Reduction of the Five Targeted Pollutants, SOx, NOx, VOC, PM2.5 and NH3 (binding for 2020 and 2030 and indicative for 2025) will likely require Walloon to also set targets.
“We are currently preparing the next integrated plan for 2030 with studies, stakeholder meetings and public consultation, ” said Minister of the Environment, Ecological Transition, Land-Use Planning, Public Works, Mobility, Transport, Animal Welfare and Business Parks, Carlo Di Antonio.
The region’s current climate target is a 14.7 per cent reduction of greenhouse gases on 2005 levels by 2020; its 2030 under Belgium’s Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement on climate change is to be determined.
According to a 2015 EU Belgian Country Briefing, 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.
Transport is a major focus in terms of air pollution reduction. Besides working with cities to roll out the first fleets of electric buses, the regional government is preparing a new transport strategy in the works that will involve electric cars, more efficient mass transit, carpooling and cycling paths.
In this region, air pollutants are mainly emitted by industries and road transport, and to a lesser extent by agriculture, domestic heating, energy production and other transport.
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.
It sees energy efficiency as a necessity to increase the share of electricity coming from renewable sources; the region is expected to produce 13 per cent of its electricity from these sources as part of national “burden sharing” obligations.
Seasonal pollution is still a problem, however, notably “pollution peaks”, large and rapid increases in dust concentrations in the air (PM10) that occur in winter when a weather phenomenon called thermal inversion keeps pollutants from being scattered by the wind.
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 Interregional Environment Unit (CELINE), to limit the episodes’ health and environmental impacts.
When triggered, it can include road traffic management measures, alerts to the public and motorists, and temporary free bus services in the most sensitive areas to encourage public transport use.
Pre-emptive measures include the launch last year of a campaign to raise awareness on good practices for open fires and wood-burning stoves, launched again this year with new educational videos.
Walloon 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.