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OECD Environmental Performance Reviews

Belgium HIGHLIGHTS

2021


WHAT ARE EPRs? OECD Environmental Performance Reviews (EPRs) provide evidence-based analysis and assessment of countries’ progress towards their environmental policy objectives. They promote peer learning, enhance government accountability and provide targeted recommendations to help countries improve their environmental performance. They are supported by a broad range of economic and environmental data. Each EPR cycle covers all OECD member countries and selected partner countries.

Belgium

OECD Environmental Performance Reviews

All reports, and more information, are available on the EPR website: http://oe.cd/epr.

THE THIRD EPR OF BELGIUM Belgium is one of the founding members of the OECD. The previous Environmental Performance Reviews of Belgium were published in 1998 and 2007. The EPR reviews the country’s environmental performance since 2007. The examining countries were Denmark and Lithuania. The EPR provides 38 recommendations, approved by the Working Party on Environmental Performance (WPEP) on 8 December 2020. They aim to help Belgium enhance policy coherence to build a strong, resilient and green economic recovery and advance towards sustainable development; implement ambitious climate and biodiversity policies; strengthen co-ordination across regions; and consolidate results of ambitious circular economy initiatives. Particular emphasis is placed on biodiversity and waste, materials management and the circular economy.

http://oe.cd/epr

“Belgium needs to adopt ambitious climate and biodiversity objectives to build a strong, resilient and green economic recovery and get on track for climate neutrality. The federal and regional governments should strengthen efforts to define a common vision of sustainable development.” Rodolfo Lacy, OECD Environment Director


Overview

HIGHLIGHTS

Belgium’s Recovery and Resilience Plan is expected to be allocated EUR 5.9 billion in EU funds. At least 37% of the plan’s expenditure should contribute to climate objectives. Projects are to be selected from recovery plans of the federal government (EUR 900 million for sustainability and mobility announced in January 2021), the Flemish Resilience Plan (about EUR 700 million for climate, sustainability and innovation announced in September 2020), Get Up Wallonia and the Relaunch and Redevelopment Plan of the BCR (April and July 2020, green investments to be determined). In February 2021, Belgium submitted a draft plan to the European Commission based on five axes: i) climate, sustainability and innovation; ii) digital transformation; iii) mobility and public works; iv) society; and v) productivity. The selected projects were not publicly available at the time this brochure was prepared.

Over the past decade, Belgium has made progress in decoupling several environmental pressures from economic growth. However, land take, landscape fragmentation, intensive agricultural practices and road traffic entail high social costs in terms of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, air pollution, traffic congestion and ecosystem degradation. Economic growth was moderate but steady in the five years preceding the coronavirus outbreak. At the end of 2020, gross domestic product (GDP) was expected to shrink by 7.5%, before slowly recovering in 2021-22. Early support measures have been effective in protecting jobs and businesses, but successive outbreaks of the pandemic make the outlook uncertain until vaccination is widespread. As the emergency passes, recovery efforts should focus on putting the country back on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Investing in low-carbon and natural infrastructure, promoting circular economy, strengthening carbon prices and phasing out environmentally harmful subsidies should be priorities.

OPPORTUNITIES BELGIUM 2019

z

A new coalition federal government

Population 12 million

z

EU recovery funds conditioned on environmental objectives

z

A remarkable biodiversity that brings benefits to society

GDP/capita

z

Strong waste management and circular economy policies.

(current purchasing power parity)

USD 55 000 (OECD average is 47 000)

CHALLENGES

Total area 30 530 km2

z

Phasing out nuclear by 2025

z

Collaborating across federal and regional governments despite fragmented competences

z

Addressing a worsened state of biodiversity

z

Reducing material and carbon footprints.

Population density 376 inhabitants/km² (OECD average is 36)

Currency Euro (EUR) In 2019 USD 1 = EUR 0.893

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OECD ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE REVIEW OF BELGIUM

Environmental performance | key trends Belgium has made progress in decoupling several environmental pressures from economic growth (Figure 1). However, progress remains insufficient to halt biodiversity loss and to alleviate the growing pressures of demographic development, urbanisation and intensive agricultural practices. Further efforts are needed to progress towards carbon neutrality, and to reduce air and water pollution. The country is not on track to achieve the SDGs by 2030. Figure 1. The country has made progress in decoupling several environmental pressures from GDP

2005 = 100 140 Real GDP

120

Total primary energy supply

Municipal waste generation

100

Domestic material consumption (2008=100)

80

Freshwater abstractions

60

PM2.5 emissions NOx emissions

40

SOx emissions

20 0 2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Source: IEA (2020), World Energy Statistics and Balances (database); OECD (2020), OECD Environment Statistics (database).

ENERGY AND CLIMATE

4

z

The National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) and the Long-term Strategy outline contributions of the federal authority and the regions to EU climate targets. However, the fragmentation of competences and lack of an independent co-ordinating body hamper development of a shared long-term vision and implementation of coherent policies. An internal burden-sharing agreement on the 2030 objective remains to be adopted.

z

Oil and gas dominate the energy mix, but the share of nuclear power is among the highest in the OECD. Energy supply from renewable sources has increased but accounted for only 9.4% of gross final energy consumption in 2018, half the EU average. Belgium is not on track to meet its 2020 targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

z

GHG emissions decreased over 2005-14 and have since stabilised (Figure 2). Road transport emissions increased over 2013-18 due to the growing number of vehicles and the longer distances travelled. NECP projections indicate that 2020 and 2030 climate targets are within reach. However, further efforts will be needed to meet the more stringent targets adopted by the European Union for 2030 to achieve climate neutrality. The NECP expects the most significant reductions to come from the transport and building sectors. Emissions covered by the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) are projected to increase over 2020-30 due to the nuclear phase-out and increasing dependence on gas.


HIGHLIGHTS

Figure 2. Belgium is not on track to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 GHG emissions and projections, million tonnes of CO2 equivalent

180 Total

160

Kyoto target 2008-12

140

Projections with existing measures

120 100

Projections with additional measures

Non-EU ETS

80 60 40

EU ETS

Non-EU ETS target

20 1990

1995

2000

2005

2010

2015

2020

2025

2030

2035

Expected non-EU ETS emissions in the Long-term Strategy

2040

2045

2050

Note: GHG emissions excluding land use, land-use change and forestry. Source: CONCERE-NCC (2019), National Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030; EEA (2019), Country Profiles: Greenhouse Gases and Energy 2019 (database); CONCERE-NCC (2020), Long-term Strategy.

AIR AND WATER QUALITY z

z

Belgium achieved the 2010 objectives set in the National Emission Ceilings Directive and is on track to meet its 2020 and 2030 emission reduction commitments. The introduction of end-of-pipe cleaning devices, more stringent emission standards, fuel switching, and the closing of some coke ovens, blast furnaces and all coal power plants have been among key factors of progress. Local air pollution, especially from transport and heating, remains a health concern. EU limit values for nitrogen dioxide continue to be exceeded at some stations. Meanwhile, 93% of Belgians are still exposed to concentration levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) above the recommended health value (Figure 3). Antwerp, the Brussels-Capital Region (BCR) and Ghent introduced low emission zones.

However, some pricing instruments encourage road and fuel use (see Towards green growth). z

Belgium is far from achieving good status for water bodies. Over 2016-17, only 24% of surface water bodies achieved good ecological status. Meanwhile, only 2% of surface water bodies and 37% of groundwater bodies reached good chemical status. High use of nutrients and pesticides in agriculture are the most important sources of pollution. Further work is needed to improve water quality monitoring, and to clarify the links between water status, pressures, impacts and how measures will contribute to achieving the objectives. Belgium has an opportunity to set more ambitious targets on water under the post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Figure 3. Mean population exposure to PM2.5 2019, micrograms/m3

0

5

10

15

20

25

Korea

30

Next steps | climate and water

27

Chile

24

Poland

23

OECD Europe

15

Belgium

13

Netherlands

12

Germany

12

France

11

Luxembourg

10

Estonia

6

Sweden

6

Finland

6

WHO air quality guideline

Note: The chart shows population exposure to outdoor PM2.5 pollution. Top and bottom three OECD countries and Belgium’s neighbours. Source: OECD (2020), OECD Environment Statistics (database).

z Adopt an inter-federal climate law setting long-term national targets to achieve climate neutrality. Establish an independent expert body to define internal burden sharing of the 2030 objectives. z Continue to improve water quality monitoring to assess the status of water bodies. Identify key measures to tackle priority substances and assess their impact. z Strengthen water management objectives in post-2020 agricultural policy.

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OECD ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE REVIEW OF BELGIUM

Environmental governance and management

Belgium employs a wide range of good international practices of environmental governance – from policy evaluation to permitting, compliance monitoring and damage remediation. However, non-compliance with environmental law, albeit on the decline, remains an important issue.

INSTITUTIONAL AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK

COMPLIANCE ASSURANCE

z

Belgium’s regions – Flanders, Wallonia and the BCR – are responsible for most environmental policies. Several co-ordination mechanisms reduce disparities between them.

z

Compliance monitoring is increasingly planned based on systematic risk assessment, but additional efforts are needed to deter non-compliance.

z

z

Environmental permitting is fully integrated with urban planning in Flanders and Wallonia and is closely linked to environmental impact assessment in every region.

The use of administrative fines has recently increased, but their collection requires improvement.

z

All three regions have extensive programmes for registration and risk assessment of contaminated sites.

z

Environmental authorities are paying increasing attention to promotion of compliance and green business practices (see case study on public procurement).

z

6

Regulatory requirements are diversified as a function of environmental risk; general and sector‑specific environmental conditions based on best available techniques – general binding rules – are used across the country.


HIGHLIGHTS

ENVIRONMENTAL DEMOCRACY z

The public has unfettered access to environmental information: federal and regional governments have established their own environmental information systems, including geoportals.

z

The French-, Flemish- and German-speaking communities, responsible for education policies, collaborate closely with the regions in the field of environmental education in schools and universities.

Next steps | governance z Increase effectiveness of co-ordination between the federal government and the regions, and among the regions. z Enhance formal environmental assessment of draft regional laws and regulations. z Continue to reduce non-compliance by expanding the application of administrative fines. z Strengthen performance management by environmental enforcement authorities by introducing outcome indicators of behaviour of the regulated community. z Further promote green business practices by scaling up and monitoring implementation of sustainable public procurement. 7


OECD ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE REVIEW OF BELGIUM

Towards green growth As the COVID-19 emergency passes, recovery efforts should focus on putting the country back on track to meet the SDGs. Belgium’s natural capital is deteriorating (Figure 4). The country has a strong institutional set-up for sustainable development. However, it needs to reinvigorate related inter-federal co-operation and improve coherence between energy and climate, transport and fiscal policies. Figure 4. Composite indicators on well-being’s sustainability

120 Economic capital 110

Human capital

100

Social capital

90 Natural capital 0

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Source: FPB (2021), Indicateurs complémentaires au PIB.

120

GREENING PRICE SIGNALS z

8

Tax-to-GDP ratio is high (44.8% in 2018) but not the share of environmentally related tax revenue (Figure 5). Taxes on energy products do not fully reflect environmental costs of energy use. Effective tax rates on CO2 emissions from energy use are low, especially in non-road sectors. Belgium has not followed up on the National Debate on Carbon Pricing (see case study on the National Debate on Carbon Pricing). Increased revenue could help fund low-carbon infrastructure and support vulnerable households.

z

Support to fossil fuel consumption represented 40% of energy tax revenue in 2018. It is mostly made of tax preferences, particularly lower taxation of heating oil and partial refund of excise duty on diesel for commercial use. Tax expenditure rose significantly in the past decade as forgone revenue from tax concessions increased with taxes on diesel. Belgium has yet to plan the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies.

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The federal government aligned diesel and petrol taxes, a welcome step as diesel is more polluting. However, the favourable tax treatment of company

cars encourages driving, is costly, and particularly benefits high-income men. Regions introduced environmental components in vehicle taxes and distance charges for trucks. This can help address air pollution, but the traffic of light duty vehicles rose sharply after the charge was introduced. Differentiated kilometre charge by time and place would reduce congestion, which is especially high in Brussels and Antwerp agglomerations at peak hours. z

It is estimated that 14% of Belgian households face challenges in affording energy. Governments support vulnerable households through reduced tax rates on heating oil, as well as through Forgone social tariffs for electricity and natural revenue linked to gas. Direct support the tax treatment of to vulnerable company cars households decoupled from represents between energy consumption would better address of GDP annually environmental and equity issues.

0.5% and 0.9%


Slovenia

4.5

Greece

3.7

Denmark

3.6

Netherlands

3.3

OECD Europe

2.3

France

2.3

Belgium

z

In 2018, public expenditures on waste (0.4% of GDP) and wastewater management (0.1% of GDP) were in line with the EU averages, while spending for the protection of biodiversity was lower (less than 0.1%).

z

The new federal government has to co ordinate a recovery plan with the regions to benefit from more than EUR 5 billion in allocations of the “Next Generation EU” resources. They can build on the National Pact for Strategic Investment and the NECP to set priorities. Investment needs in sustainable energy and mobility are estimated at almost 2% of 2018 GDP annually over the next decade (Figure 6).

z

Phasing out nuclear energy requires major investment in power generation, cross-border interconnections, smart grids, storage and demand response. The housing stock is old and among the least efficient in Europe. The renovation rate of public buildings should rise from less than 1% to 3%. Governments have room to make renewable energy policies more cost-effective.

z

Since 2010, investment in transport has hovered at a low rate (0.45% of GDP) and has shifted from rail to road. Despite regional investment plans focusing on public transport and soft mobility, there is no consistent mobility vision across the federated entities. Cost-benefit analysis of infrastructure projects is ad hoc.

z

Belgium is a strong innovator but has a modest eco-innovation performance. Public budget on energy-related research and development per unit of GDP is high due to the budget spent on nuclear power and, to a lower extent, on energy efficiency. Renewable energy sources account for a low share of spending.

2.2

Germany

1.8

Luxembourg

1.7

Switzerland

1.6

Ireland

1.6 0

1

2

3

4

5

Note: Top and bottom three OECD countries and Belgium’s neighbours. Source: OECD (2020), OECD Environment Statistics (database).

Figure 6. Investment needs in sustainable energy and mobility are high, 2019-30 Private

Public Renovation of public buildings Electricity mix

Renewables

Transmission and distribution networks Storage Alternative fuels (CNG, hydrogen, biogas)

Gas

Energy EUR 60 billion

Nuclear decommissioning and R&D in spent fuel management

Maintaining and developing networks Intelligent transport systems

Mobility EUR 22-27 billion

Transport demand management Support framework 0

5

10

15

20 25 EUR billion

HIGHLIGHTS

PROMOTING GREEN INVESTMENT

Figure 5. Environmentally related tax revenue 2018, as a percentage of GDP

Note: The pact only considers public buildings. Total investment in building energy renovation is estimated at EUR 11 billion annually. Developing transport networks: EUR 13 billion out of which EUR 7 billion in rail and EUR 2 billion in waterways. Source: Strategic Committee (2018), National Pact for Strategic Investment.

Next steps | green growth z Develop a recovery plan with ambitious climate and environmental targets, co-ordinated between the federal and regional governments. z Introduce a carbon tax for non-EU ETS sectors, phase out fossil fuel subsidies and develop compensatory measures for vulnerable households. z Abolish the favourable tax treatment of company cars. Vary the road distance charge by space and time for trucks and expand the system to other vehicles.

z Enhance inter-federal co-operation and develop a common vision of sustainable mobility. Systematically conduct cost-benefit analysis of public investment projects. z Accelerate building renovation. z Create a clear and predictable support system, while gradually integrating renewables into the electricity market.

9


OECD ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE REVIEW OF BELGIUM

Case studies

BELGIUM PAYS SPECIAL ATTENTION TO POLLINATORS The National Action Plan for the sustainable use of pesticides 2018‑22 pays particular attention to pollinators, following the adoption in 2017 of a new national risk assessment procedure for bees. A working group on pollinators created within the framework of the federal plan 2012-14 – “The health of bees, our health too” – has become the national concertation body for the preservation of bees (wild and domestic). The second federal bee plan 2017-19 is under evaluation.

Brussels-

Wallonia BELGIUM IS A FRONTRUNNER WELL‑BEING’S SUSTAINABILITY

IN

MEASURING

Since 2016, the Federal Planning Bureau (FPB) has been reporting on "beyond GDP" indicators. Every year, the FPB presents the results in a public meeting of the Chamber of Representatives and the National Bank of Belgium includes them in its annual report. The FPB has also developed composite indicators measuring current well-being in Belgium (Here and Now); the well-being of future generations (Later); and the well-being of people living in other countries (Elsewhere). The Later dimension shows the depletion of natural capital puts Belgium well-being’s sustainability into question (Figure 4).

PUBLIC PROCUREMENT: A LEVER FOR THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY Flanders launched the voluntary Green Deal on Circular Procurement in 2017. The project brought together 101 procuring organisations (including government bodies and businesses) plus 52 “facilitators” to support the work, such as business federations. Each participating organisation pledged to undertake two circular purchasing projects that reduce materials, extend the life of products, and promote their reusability and recyclability. By 2019, 115 projects were underway with 165 participants. A review of Green Deals in Flanders found strong collaborations among participants; however, outcomes in terms of overall material reduction are unclear. Wallonia launched a Green Deal on Circular Procurement in 2019. By June 2020, over 150 public and private organisations had signed up to this voluntary agreement.

10

BEL


HIGHLIGHTS

THE NATIONAL DEBATE HAS IDENTIFIED OPTIONS FOR CARBON PRICING In 2017, the federal Minister of Energy, Sustainable Development and Environment launched a national debate on options for implementing a carbon price in non-ETS sectors, a key move towards climate neutrality. The process was based on a thorough exchange among Belgian and foreign experts covering the public, private, academic, associative and trade union sectors. The analysis showed that pricing carbon is manageable and would have positive effects on employment and GDP. The population could support such a measure provided that compensatory measures are implemented.

Flanders

Capital Region

TAXES HAVE HELPED ELIMINATE LANDFILLING Wallonia introduced a landfill tax for non-hazardous household waste of EUR 20 per tonne in 2008, raising it to EUR 78 per tonne in 2015 and then, from 2017, setting different rates for combustible and non-combustible waste. This increase had a major influence in reducing municipal waste sent to landfill in the region. Flanders had a landfill tax in place before 2007. Its rate is lower, a ban on landfilling most types of municipal waste has supported a low rate of landfilling. The three regions have incineration taxes. Wallonia has applied a much higher rate to incineration without energy recovery, which has played a key role in shifting incineration to include energy recovery. However, taxes on incineration have not led to a shift to recycling.

GIUM

THE SONIAN FOREST, AN EXAMPLE OF REGIONAL CO-OPERATION The federalisation of the Belgian state in 1983 led to the break-up of the Sonian forest, previously owned by the Belgian state, between the three regions, without any official consultation structure being planned. It was not until 2008 that a formal collaboration between the three regions took shape through a framework document, which has since been translated into site management plans. Recently, the regions created a legal entity (the Sonian Foundation) to ensure co ordination. In 2017, the nature reserves of the Sonian forest were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

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OECD ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE REVIEW OF BELGIUM

Biodiversity The state of biodiversity has worsened over the past decade. Belgium will have to develop a more ambitious policy aligned with the new EU strategy for biodiversity for 2030. Strict protection of 10% of land is a challenge given the extent of built-up areas. More could be done to promote economic instruments and mainstream biodiversity into other policies. Reacting to the COVID-19 crisis, regions have set new ambitious objectives for access to green spaces in urban areas. Belgium has taken measures to control imports of invasive alien species and illegal imports of timber. However, more is needed to control imports of threatened exotic species and imported deforestation through supply chains.

STATUS, PRESSURES AND TRENDS z

Belgium has many endangered species (Figure 7). Common farmland bird populations have halved since 2000, and forest bird populations declined by almost 20%, the worst trends in the OECD area. The share of habitats of community interest in a favourable state of conservation is low.

z

Land take, landscape fragmentation and intensive agriculture are the main causes. Built-up areas, pesticide sales and the nitrogen balance per hectare are among the highest in the OECD. About 30% of the Belgian part of the North Sea does not reach the 2020 target of good environmental status, especially the coastal waters.

z

Protected areas have increased significantly since 2007. In 2020, Belgium almost met the Aichi target of 17% of land area protected and far exceeded the 10% target for coastal and marine areas (Figure 8). However, the level of protection raises questions: only The total 1% of Wallonia number of and 2% of BCR and Flanders’ species living in territories Belgium is are strictly protected.

probably over

55 000

Figure 7. Threatened species Percentage of known species, 2016 or latest available year

Freshwater fish 35 Birds 28 Vascular plants 23

Mammals 21 0

5

10

Source: OECD (2020), OECD Environment Statistics (database).

12

15

20

25

30

35

40


Figure 8. Protected areas, 2020 20

40

60

80

100

Slovenia Luxembourg Poland Germany France

Marine (% of EEZ)

Netherlands

MAINSTREAMING BIODIVERSITY IN SPATIAL PLANNING, AGRICULTURAL, CLIMATE AND TRADE POLICIES z

Regions have taken measures to stop land taking. In Flanders, a 2014 spatial planning law facilitates biodiversity management contracts with the Flemish Land Agency to protect biodiversity on land outside protected areas. In Wallonia, since 2005, land-use planning must compensate for any new zone intended for urbanisation that will have an impact on nature. However, the region’s ecological network does not have legal status. In the BCR, the regional land-use plan ensures the legal protection of nature on undeveloped land.

z

Belgium must seize the opportunity offered by the post-2020 reform of the EU’s CAP to set biodiversity targets in agriculture. The country should identify practices beneficial for biodiversity, including as co-benefits for those aimed at water quality, air quality, soil conservation or GHG mitigation.

z

Remunerating the carbon sequestration service by the land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector can generate co-benefits for biodiversity. CAP support for agri-environment and climate measures and organic farming, in addition to greening and conditionality requirements, should reverse the trend of decreasing GHG removals from LULUCF by 2030.

z

The federal government has tightened controls on illegal timber imports. A 2019 co-operation agreement with regions and communities aims to prevent the introduction and manage the spread of invasive alien species. However, there is no such agreement for the implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, and there is a lack of transparency on global commodity supply chains. This increases the risk of deforestation and of wildlife-human contact in the tropics, increasing the risk of new pandemics.

OECD Belgium United States Canada Switzerland

Terrestrial (% of total land)

Note: Top and bottom three OECD countries ranked on terrestrial protected areas and Belgium’s neighbours. Source: OECD (2020), OECD Environment Statistics (database).

PROMOTING GREATER USE OF ECONOMIC INSTRUMENTS z

z

z

Direct environmental regulation and public financial support are the main instruments of biodiversity policy. Belgium has made little use of pricing instruments (taxes, tradable permit systems) and payments for ecosystem services. Its efforts to develop information measures and voluntary schemes are commendable. Belgium is one of the few EU countries to have set risk reduction targets for pesticides. However, in addition to regulation, it should introduce risk-based taxation of pesticides. In 2015, Wallonia introduced a tax on livestock effluents, fertilisers and pesticides for the agricultural sector, but it does not reflect the risks of pesticides for health and environment. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of access to nature for well-being. The BCR aims to provide all inhabitants with green spaces within 200 metres of their homes by 2020 and intends to maintain the 50% share of undeveloped urban land

HIGHLIGHTS

0

by 2040. Wallonia aims to provide its city dwellers with green spaces within a quarter of an hour’s walk. Belgium could use more economic instruments such as user charges to finance urban green spaces or taxes on building permits linked to the loss of green space.

Next steps | biodiversity z Align objectives of the Belgian National Biodiversity Strategy and regional biodiversity policies with those of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. z Set biodiversity targets in Belgium’s strategic plan for the post-2020 CAP and identify beneficial agricultural practices to achieve them.

z Introduce pesticide taxation based on health and environmental risks and construction permit taxation based on lost green spaces. z Promote the biodiversity co-benefits of measures to achieve net carbon sequestration in the LULUCF sector. z Further mainstream biodiversity and net non-taking of land into regional spatial planning. 13


OECD ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE REVIEW OF BELGIUM

Waste, materials management and the circular economy

Regions have used an effective mix of policy instruments to achieve high levels of recovery and recycling of municipal waste and other waste streams. Belgium has undertaken pioneering initiatives on circular economy, addressing key sectors such as construction and food. It will need to demonstrate stronger results in reducing material consumption and footprints. Strengthened co-ordination between the regions and the federal government can help ensure more effective and efficient policies.

PROMOTING WASTE REDUCTION AND RECYCLING z

Material consumption per capita is below the OECD Europe average but not when considering materials extracted and processed abroad. Over the past decade, material productivity improved (Figure 1).

z

Municipal waste generation is low. Belgium is among the few countries to have achieved an absolute decoupling of this generation from economic and population growth over the past decade. By contrast, total waste generation increased between 2010 and 2018, driven by the generation of construction and demolition waste.

z

Landfilling of municipal waste was nearly eliminated partly due to landfill taxes (see case study on landfill taxes). Incineration is the leading treatment method, although Belgium is close to OECD frontrunners for recycling and composting (Figure 9). The recycling rate has risen slightly, but the share of composting did not increase.

z

Belgium The appears to have met the construction sector EU’s 2020 makes target for recycling household of total waste and municipal generated waste. However, recycling and composting will need to increase further to meet future domestic and EU goals.

34%

14

z

Extended producer responsibility schemes, including for packaging waste, have been effective in collecting and recovering waste streams. As in other EU countries, unauthorised dismantling of end-of-life vehicles remains a challenge. Despite enforcement progress, illegal exports (e.g. of waste electrical and electronic equipment, end-of-life vehicles, plastic scrap) from Belgium’s ports remains a concern.


Belgium has undertaken a wide range of circular economy initiatives. Brussels and Flanders have been pioneers in this field and Wallonia has undertaken a series of actions. The federal government has promoted circular initiatives in product policy. Governments have worked with enterprises and civil society to raise awareness, build capacity and forge partnerships for the circular economy (see case study on public procurement). They support social enterprises for waste reuse, recovery and upcycling.

z

z

The three regions have established ambitious programmes to reduce food waste and have increased separate collection. More is needed to raise awareness and reduce waste and loss along food production and distribution chains. Co-operation is key as these chains are intertwined among the three regions.

z

Circular economy policies have relied on financing mechanisms and voluntary agreements (see case study on public procurement). They have given less attention to fiscal instruments such as taxes on raw materials and differential value-added tax rates for recycled and reused materials. Belgium can also go further in the use of government purchasing to foster circular products and solutions.

Belgium recovers 95% of construction and demolition waste. However, most recycled material goes to lower value products such as aggregate. Regions promote greater reuse and higher value recycling, although results are not yet apparent in waste indicators.

z

HIGHLIGHTS

MOVING TOWARDS CIRCULAR ECONOMY

Figure 9. Landfilling has fallen further, municipal waste treatment, 2018

% 100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10

Incineration without energy recovery

Incineration with energy recovery

Recycling

le C hi

rk ey Tu

ec e G re

l

el Is ra

rtu ga

Po

ga ry

d

Landfill

H un

la n Po

D O EC

an ce

ur g

Fr

m bo

Lu xe

he rla nd s Be lg iu m

N et

Sw i tz er

la nd Sw ed en G er m an y Au st ria

0

Composting

Source: OECD (2020), OECD Environment Statistics (database).

Next steps | waste and circular economy z Continue efforts to increase separate collection and recycling of household waste. Follow through with plans to tackle food loss and food waste. z Strengthen measures to collect end-oflife vehicles within the extended producer responsibility scheme.

z Strengthen inspection and enforcement of waste exports. z Broaden the mix of instruments for moving further up the waste hierarchy and for promoting the transition to a circular economy. z Strengthen co-ordination on waste and circular economy policies and assess circular policy initiatives to identify the most effective. 15


OECD Environmental Performance Reviews

Belgium 2021 MORE INFORMATION

OECD Environmental Performance Reviews: Belgium 2021 The report and all data are available on http://oe.cd/epr-belgium Environmental Performance Review programme http://oe.cd/epr

CONTACTS Head of Division Nathalie Girouard Nathalie.Girouard@oecd.org Report Co-ordinator Frédérique Zegel Frederique.Zegel@oecd.org Communications Natasha Cline-Thomas Natasha.Cline-Thomas@oecd.org

IMAGE CREDITS All images are from Shutterstock.com unless otherwise specified. This document and any map herein are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area.

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OECD Environmental Performance Reviews: Belgium 2021 (Highlights)  

The EPR provides 38 recommendations, approved by the Working Party on Environmental Performance (WPEP) on 8 December 2020. They aim to help...

OECD Environmental Performance Reviews: Belgium 2021 (Highlights)  

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