West Flanders municipalities join forces to fight CO2 emissions

Summary

The “Mayors’ Covenant” has been signed by 32 additional towns in West Flanders, bringing the total to 48 councils committed to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 20%

20% by 2020

A group of 32 cities and towns in West Flanders have signed on to the “Mayors’ Covenant” pledging to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20% by the year 2020.

The document, signed in Bruges on Wednesday, commits all 32 mayors to carry out measurements to determine the level of emissions on their territory. They will then draw up a plan of action to show how they will achieve the 20% reduction. Every two years after that, the mayors will report on their progress towards the target. Sixteen municipalities had launched the initiative previously, so the total now stands at 48.

The next municipal elections in Belgium are due to take place in 2018, which means progress on achieving the targets set out in the covenant could be an important factor in local campaigning in the cities concerned. Aside from Bruges, other cities signed on to the covenant include Ypres, Roeselare, Poperinge and many coastal towns such as Ostend and Knokke-Heist.

The idea for the covenant came from the EU, which has set the same CO2 emissions target, as well as pledging to use 20% less energy and to rely on renewable energy sources for 20% of consumption, all by 2020.

In West Flanders, the initiative was taken by the provincial authority and the intercommunal WVI, which carries out environmental studies, among other work, on behalf of 54 municipalities in West Flanders. “As a province, we wanted to be the driving force behind local authorities, to help them strive for and ultimately achieve their goals,” said provincial deputy Guido Decorte.

Photo courtesy Mohri UN-CECAR/Flickr Commons

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Pollution in Flanders

With its high population density, heavy traffic and industry, pollution is one of the most vital environmental and health challenges facing Flanders. The levels of fine particulates in Flemish cities are among the highest in the world.
Particles - Fine particulates are air pollutants emitted by sources such as industries, power plants, vehicles (in Flanders, diesel cars especially) and domestic heating, and can cause respiratory problems, cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer in the long run.
Air - According to the European Commission, residents in Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent have been exposed to unhealthy levels of fine dust pollution levels since 2005. Belgium has already received two warnings from the Commission since 2012 to improve the local air quality.
Smog alarm - Speed limits are temporarily lowered when air pollution levels exceed certain thresholds. At the lowest of the three grades of pollution, speed limits in Brussels are reduced to 50 km/h in cities and to 90 km/h on parts of Flemish motorways.
13

months of life lost because of air pollution

70

alarm level for microgram level of fine particulates per cubic metre

6

billion greenhouse gas emissions in CO2 equivalents in Flanders in 2011