Wallonia takes first steps down carbon reduction road

First attempts to mark out path toward turning Wallonia into low-carbon zone

Climate decree sets 2013-2020 targets

Looks ahead to 2050

 

It’s a constant trend these days. Faced with an obligation to considerably reduce greenhouse gas emissions, governments all over the world have been busy setting a course and planning the work ahead. The task involves anticipating a revolution, transforming extremely fossil fuel-dependent and CO²-producing communities into simpler, carbon-free societies.

The first major European milestone is scheduled for 2020. If it remains on its current path, Belgium should not have too much trouble remaining within the parameters, although additional measures will be required to attain the set objective of -15% greenhouse gases when compared to 1990. But the second target is much more demanding, necessitating radical changes, reducing said gases by 80 to 95 % within the Kingdom. Undoubtedly, this type of upheaval will be less difficult if the country prepares for it in advance.

Wallonia is one area that is knuckling down. As the end of July draws near, the government has been dealing with an extensive “air-climate-energy” program as well as a decree laying down future climate policy. To sum up its contents, the Region has set its sights on a greenhouse gas emission reduction of 30 % by 2020, and of 80 to 95 % by 2050.

Contrary to Flanders, which has staked out its own path up to 2020, Wallonia is keen to already look beyond that date. The climate decree thereby sets out objectives (2020 and 2050) in legal language and lays out a specific work method. The Walloon government will set, every five years, carbon “budgets” for the major sectors of society (energy, industry, residential, transport, agriculture and waste). Moreover, it will draw up five-year “air-climate-energy” programs, calculating the budgets and detailing measures that need to be taken so that they can be respected. Every year the government will have to deliver a progress report to the Walloon Parliament, and a monitoring system will be put in place. All of this is not necessarily new as the British “Climate Change Act” of 2008 introduced the principal of carbon budgets corresponding to a quantity of greenhouse gases emitted during a given period.

Carbon Budgets

The initial “budget period” will cover 2013-2017. It is a 300-page tome that also stresses how essential it is that Wallonia adapt to climate change and improve its air quality. The first program broadens the scope up to 2022. At this stage there is nothing too revolutionary about it. Emissions in Wallonia already fell by 21.4 % between 1990 and 2010. The 2020 goal of -30 % has almost been reached already, but the Region has benefitted from “favorable” external circumstances. Mild winters, an economic downturn which slowed down consumption and economic activity, and, most importantly, the closure of highly polluting facilities in the steel industry.

Those circumstances are unlikely to repeat themselves. If the issue is not addressed seriously in the short term, states the document, the long-term outlook is that “emissions reductions that need to be carried out are considerable. They will force us to reconsider every facet of our lives: the way in which we heat our homes, travel, manufacture items and amenities that we need, produce and consume electricity etc. As far as Wallonia is concerned, the implications of such socio-economic upheaval that also affects urban development and our living environment are huge.”

Although the Region has reduced its emissions by an average of 0.7 % every year since 1990, it will need to multiply its efforts sixfold to reach the target of 4.5 % per year. By 2020 the Walloon population is expected to grow by 7%, while housing in the Region is likely to expand by 13.2 %.

Certain measures introduced by Walloon authorities have not yet produced their desired effect. Local industry, however, has continued to reduce its emissions by improving its production methods. But more is required. Wallonia still has a long way to go. Planning for the journey is a sensible approach.

MICHEL DE MUELENAERE

 

 

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