More biodiversity and cleaner fireplaces part of new Green Deals

Summary

A Green Deal has been made with the wood-burning stove sector as well as more than 110 businesses, who agreed to introduce biodiversity to their properties

Good for nature and employees

Flemish environment minister Joke Schauvliege has sealed two Green Deals this month, part of a series of agreements with various industrial sectors to improve environmental quality. The first agreement was with more than 110 businesses across Flanders, which all pledged to add more biodiversity to their own properties.

Industrial terrains and office blocks are not known for their green space, so Schauvliege’s focus for Green Deal Business and Biodiversity was on getting companies to voluntarily add foliage and ponds to their properties. Altogether, the companies promised 1,250 hectares of new green space by 2021.

“Investing in more biodiversity on business grounds will help protect and repair natural spaces,” said Schauvliege’s department in a statement. “They lend to a healthier atmosphere both inside and outside the business. More green space has positive consequences for the climate and water quality, lowers temperatures and cleans the air. A rich biodiversity in and around work spaces improves the wellbeing of not only employees but of those who live in the area.”

The 100+ businesses have reported a variety of measures they will take, such as planting trees and plants, adding ponds and wildflowers and banning pesticides. Companies that have signed on to Green Deal Business and Biodiversity include science activity centre Technopolis in Mechelen, supermarkets Aldi and Delhaize, the port of Antwerp, University College Gent, Antwerp University Hospital and the Roularta Media Group, with offices in Roeselare, Brussels and Zellik.

Cleaner fireplaces by 2030

Today, meanwhile, it was announced that another Green Deal had been signed with Flanders’ producers of wood-burning stoves. By 2030, all new wood fireplaces, fireplace inserts and stoves that burn wood or pellets must reduce their toxic emissions by half.

Fireplaces and stoves are responsible for 35% of the fine particles in the air, according to Flanders Environment Agency. The emissions include soot, PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) and dioxins, all of which are damaging to both the environment and human health.

The government would also like to see current stoves and fireplaces taken out of commission by 2030. Though an outright ban is not planned at this time, the government hopes that at least half of all owners of wood and pellet burning stoves and fireplaces will voluntarily update them when the newer, cleaner versions are available.

We would have rather seen a total ban on wood-burning fireplaces

- Marc Michils, Kom op tegen kanker

Environmental and health organisations have mixed feelings about the new Green Deal. Sustainability agency Bond Beter Leefmilieu (BBL), for instance, would like to see it go even further. “It’s a missed opportunity to made this even more broad,” Benjamin Clarysse of BBL told VRT. “This is an agreement with only the wood-burning industry itself and not with other sectors. So there’s been no thought put in to alternatives to wood-burning infrastructure, like heat pumps.”

“We are satisfied with the agreement, although we would have rather seen a total ban on wood-burning fireplaces,” said Marc Michils, the director of cancer charity Kom op tegen kanker. “They produce soot, which causes cancer. A ban would have to take into consideration that such devices are often the main source of heat for vulnerable families. They would need to be offered a subsidy to switch to another form of heating.”

Other Green Deals over the last 18 months have been made with businesses in the area of cleaner mobility options and more sustainable brewing techniques. Currently Schauvliege is working on a new Green Deal with schools to offer healthier and more sustainable meals for pupils.

Photo: Getty Images