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Emissions of greenhouse gases
CO2 is by far the principal greenhouse gas emitted in the Region (almost 93% in 2010). The main sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Brussels are the heating of buildings (residential and tertiary sector: 69% of direct emissions of GHGs in 2010) and transport (21%). Since 2004, GHG emissions have shown a downward trend that parallels the reduction in energy consumption – a trend that is inevitably affected by the weather. Since 2006, the sum of regional GHG emissions has been lower than the upper limit set in line with the objectives of the Kyoto Protocol. Since then, the Region has made a commitment to reduce its GHG emissions in 2025 by 30%, compared to 1990 (Covenant of the Mayors).
The six greenhouse gases (GHGs) covered by the Kyoto Protocol are: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). There are other gases that also have a greenhouse effect but these are not taken into account in calculating the reduction targets. In concrete terms, these six gases are evaluated together as a group, each being weighted according to its global warming potential (GWP) and expressed as a “CO2 equivalent”.
The Kyoto Protocol only takes into account the GHGs that are emitted directly in the territory (direct emissions). Direct GHG emissions in the Brussels Region are mainly the result of combustion processes using fossil fuels (coal, gas, and oil). CO2 is by far the most important GHG emitted in the Region (almost 93% in 2010).
Greenhouse gas emissions in the Brussels Region
In 2010, heating of buildings alone (residential and tertiary) accounted for 69% of direct GHG emissions. Buildings and transport taken together accounted for 90% of direct emissions in the same year.
Direct GHG emissions (without fluorinated gases) in the Brussels Capital Region in the years 1990 to 2010
Source: Brussels Environment, Air, Climate and Energy Planning Department
Between 2004 and 2007, heating-related emissions decreased, despite an increase in both the residential building stock (+1%, according to Statistics Belgium), and the office building stock (according to the Office Stock Overview). The regional greenhouse gas emissions seems to be gradually uncoupling from the population.
However, as the renewed increase in total GHG emissions in 2008 and 2010 shows, this development is also related to climate conditions (which were milder in 2007 and 2009, and harsher in 2008 and 2010).
It should however be noted that the estimates of GHG emissions, which are based on the regional energy balance, do not allow a clear identification of the decisive reasons for this development.
As a contracting party to the Kyoto Protocol, Belgium must reduce its GHG emissions by 7.5% over the 2008-2012 period compared to 1990. According to the burden sharing between the 3 Regions and the federal state (2004), the Brussels-Capital Region, where agricultural and industrial activity is limited, may not increase its GHGs emission by more than 3,475% over the same period. Mobility problems and energy use for the heating of buildings, which are difficult to correct in the short run, were recognised as specific for the Region.
Since 2006, regional GHG emissions have been below this upper limit.
As for the period subsequent to the Kyoto Protocol, there is the Region’s commitment to reduce its GHG emissions by 30% in 2025, compared to 1990 (Covenant of the Mayors).
Aside from the GHGs emitted in the Brussels territory (“direct emissions”), the Region is also responsible for “indirect” emissions related to the generation beyond its borders of the electricity it consumes (i.e. almost 95% of the consumed electricity; see page on Energy situation in Brussels), and to the production of imported consumer goods (foodstuffs, household appliances, construction materials, textiles, etc.).
In 2010, the indirect emissions that were related to the use of imported electricity across all sectors in the Brussels region, represented 1,590 kilotons of CO2, or a mass equivalent of 40% of the direct CO2 emissions.