Bruges, Belgium - Photo Credit - hpgruesen & Free Images - Pixabay
Welcome to the forty-eighth edition of my weekly blog where I take a closer look at the policies adopted by individual countries in their efforts to meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement. Particular attention is paid to the role that Carbon Capture, Utilisation, and Storage (CCUS) research and technologies are playing in the drive to meet these requirements.
Having examined the role of enhanced coal bed methane in reducing CO2 emissions last week, I’m returning to my country-by-country analysis and this week I’m focusing on Belgium.
Belgium ranks fifteenth highest in Yale University’s newly published Environmental Performance Index (EPI) for 2018. This is a drop of eight positions compared with its EPI baseline ranking of 7th place. The baseline ranking is typically calculated by applying the same set of metrics to the country’s historic performance data from 10 years ago.
One of the main areas driving the fall in the overall ranking is ‘climate and energy’. Belgium’s current ranking for this sub-category is 34th versus a baseline of 25th.The ’ Climate and energy’ sub-category measures emissions intensity for CO2, methane, nitrous oxide (N2O), black carbon etc.
N2O emissions intensity are the weakest performing sub-category with a ranking of 113th globally. N2O emissions typically come from agricultural biomass burning, industrial production, and livestock management. The Belgian agricultural sector is responsible for roughly 33% of its N2O emissions.
Paris Agreement Targets
As part of Belgium’s Paris Agreement targets, the country has agreed to reduce its Greenhouse Gas (GhG) emissions by at least 35% of 1990 levels, by 2030. This was agreed as part of the EU’s overall target to reduce emissions by 40% of 1990 levels by 2030.
The EU Climate Leaderboard produced by Carbon Market Watch and Transport & Environment ranks Belgium 13th out of the EU countries for its position towards negotiating the EU’s Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR). Belgium is showing commitment by favouring the EU’s proposal to aim towards emissions reductions being measured against 2016 – 2018 levels v’s Commission 2020 – 2021 levels (i.e. a higher reduction overall as the 2021 starting point would be lower than using the 2020 target).
Belgium’s support of the EU’s emissions reduction and effort sharing regulation (ESR) targets is unsurprising since the commission’s headquarters is located in Brussels, but encouraging nonetheless.
According to a 2016 review of Belgian energy policies by the International Energy Agency (IEA), nuclear fuel (47%) was the primary source of electricity generation in 2014 followed by natural gas (27%) and renewables (19%).
Renewables have grown considerably from a modest base of 2.4% of the overall total in 2004. Biofuels and waste, wind, and solar are the main drivers of renewable energy in Belgium. Solar energy generation grew by over 120% between 2004 and 2014 with the aid of subsidies.
Umicore €892m equity placement
On 8th February 2018, Belgian materials technology company Umicore raised €892m through the issue of new stock. This equity issuance will be used to help fund the construction of a greenfield facility in China and a first cathode material facility in Europe. Cathode materials are used in Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries.
As mentioned in previous weeks of this blog several European countries, including Sweden, Denmark, France, Switzerland, and Norway plan to be fossil free or at least ban the use of petrol and diesel engine cars over the coming 20 -30 years. With this goal, innovative companies such as Umicore will be well positioned to take advantage of how countries are moving towards electric cars.
Belgium fully supports the EU’s ESR targets and takes its own commitments seriously. Its electricity generation is well diversified and not dependent on fossil fuels. Nuclear fuel has been the key source of electricity generation since the early ‘80s, however, renewable energy production has grown steadily over the last decade. Belgian companies such as Umicore who make rechargeable electric batteries for automobiles are taking advantage of the move towards low-carbon and carbon-free technology in place of fossil fuel powered alternatives.
Next week’s blog will profile Italy and their efforts to meet their CO2 emissions reduction targets.
If you liked this article you might enjoy reading some recent articles in the series:
Week 47 Enhanced Coal Bed Methane: Fire ice can help store carbon and power SpaceX's rocket engines
Week 46 Greece: Move to Renewables is a marathon, not a sprint
Week 45 Luxembourg: Green bonds and blue electricity