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Belgium

Air pollution (Belgium)

Why should we care about this issue

Topic
Air pollution Air pollution
more info
NFP-Belgium
Organisation name
NFP-Belgium
Reporting country
Belgium
Organisation website
Organisation website
Contact link
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Last updated
22 Dec 2010
Content license
CC By 2.5
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NFP-Belgium
Published: 05 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011 Feed synced: 22 Dec 2010 original
Key message

Air pollution causes adverse health effects

Air pollution can cause adverse health effects. Besides premature mortality (due to the short-term exposure to elevated air pollution concentrations), chronic exposure to air pollution can have an important impact on life expectancy. Chronic exposure to the current PM2.5 concentrations in Belgium is estimated to shorten the statistical life expectancy by almost one year. This is one of the highest impacts in Europe. 

The state and impacts

Published: 05 Nov 2010 Modified: 03 Oct 2013 Feed synced: 22 Dec 2010 original
Key message

Exposure of the Belgian population to enhanced ozone concentrations remains too high.

Figures

Figure 1: Percentage of the Belgian population potentially exposed to O3 concentrations

percentage above the European target value for 2010 (no more than 25 exceedances of the daily highest eight-hourly averaged O3 concentration of 120 ug/m3 averaged over three years) and percentage above the European long-term objective (no more exceedances of the daily highest eight-hourly averaged O3 concentration of 120ug/m3)
Data source
http://www.irceline.be/%257Ecelinair/rio/rio_corine.pdf
Figure 1: Percentage of the Belgian population potentially exposed to O3 concentrations
Fullscreen image Original link

Population exposure to ozone

The European target value for ozone for the protection of human health is 120 μg/m3 (as the daily highest eight-hourly mean) not to be exceeded on more than 25 days per calendar year averaged over three years.

The percentage of the Belgian population potentially (*) exposed to ozone concentrations above the EU target (light blue bars) was around 20 % in 2003 (based on the exceedances above the daily highest eight-hourly mean of 120 µg/m3 in the years 2001, 2002 and 2003) and 2005 (based on annual exceedances in 2003, 2004 and 2005). These were the highest exposures during the last decade and were due to the extremely hot and dry summer of 2003.

During warm and sunny summers (2003, 2006) around 70 % of the Belgian population is potentially exposed to ozone concentrations higher than 120 μg/m3 (as the daily highest eight-hourly mean) on more than 25 days per year (dark blue dots). There is no clear trend but under comparative meteorological conditions, the duration and intensity of ozone peaks (and consequently the population exposure) have been decreasing in later years. This is due to decreasing emissions of ozone precursors (NOx and VOC).

The long-term objective for ozone for the protection of human health is no more exceedances of 120 μg/m3 (as the daily highest eight-hourly mean). This objective is even in very favorable meteorological years far from reachable. Since 1990 (with exception of 1991 and 2007) the entire Belgian population was potentially exposed to ozone concentrations above 120 µg/m3 on at least one day.

Ozone pollution will only experience a long-lasting decrease when the ozone precursor emissions are drastically reduced, not only in Europe but also in the whole northern hemisphere. 

 


 (*) NOTE: population exposure was calculated using the combination of population density maps and concentrations calculated by an ’intelligent‘ interpolation model (RIO-corine, Janssen et al., 2008). This interpolation technique has a resolution of 5x5 km and calculates the ozone concentrations for every 5x5 km gridcell. It is assumed that the total population living in a 5x5 gridcell will be exposed to concentrations that are higher than the limit values, when the interpolated concentrations exceed these limit values. When the interpolated concentrations are below the limit values, it is assumed that not everybody in the corresponding gridcell is exposed.

Key message

Exposure of the Belgian population to elevated PM10 concentrations is decreasing slowly.

Figures

Figure 2: Percentage of the Belgian population potentially exposed to PM10 concentrations

Percentage above the European annual limit value (40 ug/m3) and percentage above the European daily limit value (no more than 35 days with daily mean PM10 concentrations higher than 50 ug/m3). The limit values for PM10 entered into force on 01/01/2005
Data source
http://www.irceline.be/%257Ecelinair/rio/rio_corine.pdf
Figure 2: Percentage of the Belgian population potentially exposed to PM10 concentrations
Fullscreen image Original link

Population exposure to particulate matter (PM10)

The percentage of the Belgian population potentially (*) exposed to concentrations above the EU annual mean limit value for PM10 (40 µg/m³) has been decreasing since 1997 (with the exception of 2003) and has been almost zero since 2005. Exposure to concentrations above the annual EU limit value gives an indication of the chronic exposure of the population to PM10.

However, the exposure of the population to concentrations above the daily limit value is higher and greatly depends on the meteorological conditions. Exposure to concentrations above the EU daily limit value gives an idea of the short-term exposure of the population to ’peak‘ concentrations of PM10. In the extreme meteorological year 2003, more than 80 % of the Belgian population was potentially exposed to daily mean PM10 concentrations higher than 50 µg/m³ on more than 35 days. In 2008, the exposure was the lowest since the PM10 measurements started and was less than 5 %. The separate impact of emission reductions and meteorological conditions is hard to determine.

 


(*) NOTE: population exposure was calculated using the combination of population density maps and concentrations calculated by an ’intelligent‘ interpolation model (RIO-corine, Janssen et al., 2008). This interpolation technique has a resolution of 4x4 km and calculates the PM10 concentrations for every 4x4 km gridcell. It is assumed that the total population living in a 4x4 gridcell will be exposed to concentrations that are higher than the limit values, when the interpolated concentrations exceed these limit values. When the interpolated concentrations are below the limit values, it is assumed that not everybody in the corresponding gridcell is exposed.

Key message

Exposure of the Belgian population to NO2 remains too high in urban areas

Figures

Figure 3: Percentage of the Belgian and the Brussels population potentially exposed to NO2

Percentage of the Belgian and the Brussels population potentially exposed to NO2 concentrations above the annual limit value (40 ug/m3). This limit value entered into force on 01/01/2010
Data source
http://www.irceline.be/%257Ecelinair/rio/rio_corine.pdf
Figure 3: Percentage of the Belgian and the Brussels population potentially exposed to NO2
Fullscreen image Original link

Population exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2)

The percentage of the Belgian population exposed to NO2 concentrations above the annual limit value of 40 µg/m³ (as from 1 January 2010) is around 8 % and has remained stable in recent years. It is mainly the urban population that is exposed to enhanced NO2 concentrations. In the Brussels conurbation for instance, almost 50 % of the population is potentially exposed to annual mean NO2 concentrations higher than 40 µg/m³ since 2002. However, due to the limited size of the Brussels-Capital Region (161,4 km2) this kind of interpolation is particularly subject to inaccuracy. This evaluation should therefore just be considered as a rough approximation. 

Although NOx emissions are decreasing (see also chapter 2), NO2 concentrations in (urban) areas that are highly influenced by traffic emissions do not decrease to the same extent. This conclusion is also found in other western European cities. The main reasons for this, at first sight, look contradictory:

  • the higher NOx emissions by diesel cars in realistic driving conditions in comparison with emissions measured using the official driving cycles;

  • an increase of the NO2 fraction in the total NOx emissions by (mainly) diesel cars, caused by the introduction of oxydation catalysts (since the introduction of the EURO 3 emission standard);

  • the use of Catalytic Diesel Particulate Filters (CDPF) in modern high duty vehicles and busses.

It is unlikely that the limit value for NO2 can be attained with further ‘technical’ emission reduction measures. The only way to attain the annual limit value for NO2 in urban areas will be a drastic reduction of traffic volumes. Possible measures to achieve this are, for example, the introduction of LEZ (Low Emission Zones), congestion charging, and road pricing.

The key drivers and pressures

Published: 05 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011 Feed synced: 22 Dec 2010 original
Key message

Ozone precursor emissions decreasing, but NEC reduction target out of reach.

Figures

Figure 4: Ozone precursor emissions

Source: compilation of the Belgian regional emission inventories (IRCEL-CELINE) + EMEP WebDab
Data source
http://www.irceline.be/%257Ecelinair/english/airpol_en.html
Figure 4: Ozone precursor emissions
Fullscreen image Original link

Ozone precursors (NOx and VOC) emissions, expressed in TOFP (Total Ozone Formation Potential) units decreased by 40 % between 1990 and 2007. Because the different ozone precursors have a different share in the tropospheric ozone formation, the photochemically relevant sum of the precursors is expressed in TOFP units. Besides NOx and VOC, CO and CH4 also play a role in the photochemical ozone formation reactions. Their role, however, is less important and the TOFP used here is only the relevant sum of NOx and VOC.

The VOC emissions have decreased more significantly than the NOx emissions. VOC emissions decreased by more than 50 %, and NOx emissions only by 30 % between 1990 and 2007. The NEC (National Emission Ceiling) target for 2010 for VOC is within reach. The NOx target, however, is totally out of reach. It is estimated (EEA, 2009) that the Belgian NOx emissions in 2010 will be around 43 % higher than the target. The main reason is the increasing share of diesel fueled cars in the Belgian vehicle fleet (see hereunder). Diesel cars emit significantly more NOx than gasoline and LPG cars. Almost 80 % of new cars sold in Belgium are diesel cars now. This is further stimulated by the Belgian government due to ’environmental‘ subsidies that are given only on the basis of CO2 emissions. Diesel cars generally emit less CO2 than comparative gasoline cars so that only diesel cars (with the exception of very small gasoline and hybrid cars) are eligible for these subsidies. Another reason for the increasing share of diesel cars is the lower taxes which makes diesel cheaper (per liter) than gasoline.

 

Key message

Primary and precursor PM10 emissions decreasing slowly

Figures

Figure 5: Particulate matter emissions (PM10) in Belgium

Source: Interregional Air Quality database (IRCEL), RIO-corine interpolation model (VITO-IRCEL), compilation of the Belgian regional emission inventories (IRCEL) and EMEP WebDab.
Data source
http://www.irceline.be
Figure 5: Particulate matter emissions (PM10) in Belgium
Fullscreen image Original link

Data sources

http://www.irceline.be
Data sources
Source

Particulate matter emissions (PM10)

Recent studies have demonstrated that almost 50% of the total measured PM10 in Belgium is secundary aerosol (sulphates, nitrates). The AFP (Aerosol Formation Potential) emissions (blue bars), this is the weighted sum of the NH3, SO2 and NOx emissions based on their aerosol formation potential, have decreased by 23 % in 2007 since 2000. The primary PM10 emissions (green bars) decreased by 28% in 2007 since 2000.

The total (=sum of primary and secundary) PM10 emissions were more than 20% lower in 2007 compared to 2000.

The decrease of the PM10 concentrations (orange dots) however was only 10%. Possible explanations for this “paradox”are:

  • The relation between the emissions of PM and the measured PM concentrations is not “linear”. A decrease of the PM precursor emissions will not decrease the “secundary” PM10 fraction to the same extent;

  • Some “diffuse” (mostly industrial) emissions are unknown and are not available in the emission inventories;

  • The use of biomass as alternative fuel (woodpellets, …) has increased significantly the last decade and these biomass emissions are probably underestimated ;

  • The NOx emissions of diesel cars are higher in “realistic” driving conditions compared to the “official” NOx emissions based on the EURO guidelines. NOx emissions are thus probably underestimated.

 

Key message

The number of vehicle-km keeps on increasing. The share of diesel vehicles is exceeding the share of gasoline vehicles, and a growing share of the passenger cars complies with the stricter European emissions standards.

Figures

Graph 1: Stock of passenger cars by fuel type in Belgium, 1985-2008

None
Data source
http://www.febiac.be/
Graph 1: Stock of passenger cars by fuel type in Belgium, 1985-2008
Fullscreen image Original link

Number of vehicle-km and stock of passenger cars by fuel type and by emission standards

A main driver in the ozone precursor and particulate emissions is the number of vehicle-km that keeps on growing in Belgium. The number of vehicle-km increased at an average annual rate of 2 % from 1990 to 20071.

Another key driver is the fuel type and quality. During the last twenty years, the types of cars have changed. Diesel vehicles have taken a greater importance and now account for the greatest share (57 %) of the stock of passenger cars, against 42 % for the gasoline vehicles (see graph 1).

The stock of passenger cars is also characterised by a growing number of cars responding to the Euro 3 and 4 standards. At the end of 2008, more than the half of the stock of passenger cars was Euro 3 or Euro 4 (see graph 2).

The number of vehicle-km keeps on increasing. The share of diesel vehicles is exceeding the share of gasoline vehicles, and a growing share of the passenger cars complies with the stricter European emissions standards.

 


1 Federal Planning Bureau. Internet Website (www.plan.be). Data. Base de données et chiffres. Base de données transport (22/10/09)

 

The 2020 outlook

Published: 05 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011 Feed synced: 22 Dec 2010 original
Key message

Climate change may predominantly or completely nullify the positive effects of the expected reductions of emissions in ozone and particulate matter air pollution

The Environmental Outlook 2030 for Flanders investigates how the quality of the environment might develop in Flanders and what impact policy could have on this. The future developments have been depicted using three policy scenarios with increasing levels of ambition:

  • The reference scenario investigates how far the current environmental policy reaches.

  • The Europe scenario investigates what may be required to realise the European ambitions concerning climate change, air quality and water quality in the medium term.

  • The visionary scenario investigates how the environment may be safeguarded for present and future generations.

In the reference scenario, the annual average ozone concentration shows a gradual, but significant, rising trend. This is partly due to the increase in the background concentration due to long-distance transport of ozone to Europe, but primarily due to a decreased ozone breakdown due to the expected NOx-reduction of emissions. The annual ozone excess will fall because the ozone peaks decrease but not enough to achieve the long-term European target. In 2030, 15 % of the population will still be exposed to average daily PM10-concentrations greater than 50 µg/m3 for more than 35 days. Furthermore, unfavourable meteorological conditions for air pollution will occur more frequently due to climate change. 

In the Europe scenario, the annual average ozone concentration will increase more than in the reference scenario, up to 54 µg/m3 in 2030. The lower NO-concentration (as a result of the expected Flemish and European NOx-emission reductions) ensures that less ozone is broken down. But also the increasing background concentrations, among others due to increased emissions in China and India, ensure that the ozone-concentration remains high. Due to a lack of threshold values, lower ‘everyday’ ozone concentrations are also causing adverse health effects. However, the annual ozone excess (ozone peak concentrations) shows a significant drop by 37 % from 2007 to 2030. But with drier and warmer weather in the future, for instance as a result of climate change, the positive effect of the decreases in emissions on the ozone peak concentrations will predominantly disappear. The annual average PM2.5 concentration will probably reach the indicative limit of 20 µg/m2 in 2020. The target for the daily average PM10 concentration, i.e. a maximum of 35 days higher than 50 µg/m3, may only be achieved with local measures, such as low emission zones in cities and industrial areas. 

Existing and planned responses

Published: 05 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011 Feed synced: 22 Dec 2010 original
Key message

Ozone and or air quality action plans have been adopted during the last ten years at both the federal and regional level in order to reduce, through a comprehensive set of measures, the level of concentrations of various air pollutants, in particular ozone, particulate matters and NOx.

Federal level

  • A Royal Decree on boilers was adopted in July 2009 in order to limit emissions of NOX and particulate matters emissions and a Royal Decree on pellet-fired boilers is under preparation.

  • The Euro 5 standard has been introduced for private vehicles.

  • For company vehicles, with effect from the fiscal year 2007, a tax deduction of EUR150 (not indexed) is available for the purchase of new diesel vehicles equipped with a particle filter and with CO2 emissions not higher than 130 grams per km and those with particulate matters (soot) of maximum 0.005 g/km. For the calendar year 2009, a reduction of EUR210 (indexed net amount) is available by direct deduction from the purchase invoice.

 

Key message

Ozone and or air quality action plans have been adopted during the last ten years at the federal level and in the regions in order to reduce, through a comprehensive set of measures, the level of concentrations of various air pollutants, in particular for ozone, particulate matters and NOx. 

Brussels-Capital Region

  • Like in the two other regions, an ’Emergency plan in the event of peaks of pollution‘ has been implemented. It includes three levels of intervention according to the increasing concentrations of pollutants in the atmosphere: speed limit, system of alternated plates and total interdiction of circulation.

  • A grant called ’Prime Bruxell'air’ is provided to car owners who decide to shift toward environmentally friendly modes of transport and give back their number plates. This measure also promotes the destruction of high pollution vehicles because an additional grant is given for the destruction of these vehicles.

  • In the Brussels Capital region, the establishment of a plan of displacements is obligatory for the companies that employ more than 200 workers on the same site. The plan is set up in two phases: development of a diagnosis of mobility, followed by the development of a concrete action plan. 260 diagnoses of mobility had been carried out in 2008. Those include a total of 220 000 workers that represent a third of all employment in the Brussels region. With regard to the mode of the principal displacement, on average 47 % of these workers use the car to go to work (45 % as driver and 2 % as passenger), 32 % the train and 15 % the bus, tram or subway. The share of walking is little more than 3 % and that of cycling less than 2 %.
  • Many measures aiming at reducing the emissions coming from the residential and tertiary buildings have also been taken (see part "Climate change mitigation")

 

Key message

Ozone and or air quality action plans have been adopted during the last ten years at the federal level and in the regions in order to reduce, through a comprehensive set of measures, the level of concentrations of various air pollutants, in particular for ozone, particulate matters and NOx.

Flemish region

  • Since February 2009, the Flemish Government has paid a bonus for the installation of a soot filter on diesel-powered vehicles with environmental class Euro 3 standard. 80 % of the total costs (costs of the soot filter, but also the costs for its installation and any additional costs), up to EUR400, will be refunded.

  • An environmental grant scheme has been in force for particle filters for lorries and for the purchase of Euro 5 lorries since July 2006. A decree grants subsidies for the retrofit of passenger cars with particle filters. Another form of financial support is the planned reform of the road tax, both the registration tax and the annual road tax. For passenger cars, the reform can be based on the ecoscore of the vehicle. The ecoscore reflects a car’s overall impact on the environment and takes the polluting emissions (PM, NOx, CO, HC), CO2 and sound into account. The registration tax for new vehicles will be adopted to encourage the fitting of vehicles with particle filter.

  • A measure consisting in reducing vehicle speed from 120 to 90 km/h on the highways crossing sensitive zones during peaks in air pollution has been adopted.

 

Key message

Ozone and or air quality action plans have been adopted during the last ten years at the federal level and in the regions in order to reduce, through a comprehensive set of measures, the level of concentrations of various air pollutants, in particular for ozone, particulate matters and NOx.

Walloon Region

  • A similar measure consisting in reducing vehicle speed from 120 to 90 km/h on the highways crossing sensitive zones during peaks in air pollution has also been adopted in the Walloon Region.

  • The monitoring network on air quality should be completed and new mobile monitoring stations should be added.

  • A periodical evaluation of insulation standards is foreseen for residential buildings and measures should be adopted in order to promote the replacement of coal boilers by more eco-efficient warming systems.

  • A more appropriate system should be defined in order to fight wild incineration of waste.

 

Disclaimer

The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100