OECD Environmental Performance Reviews

1990-0090 (online)
1990-0104 (print)
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OECD Environmental Performance Reviews provide independent assessments of countries’ progress towards their environmental policy objectives. Reviews promote peer learning, enhance government accountability, and provide targeted recommendations aimed at improving environmental performance, individually and collectively. They are supported by a broad range of economic and environmental data, and evidence-based analysis. Each cycle of Environmental Performance Reviews covers all OECD countries and selected partner economies.

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OECD Environmental Performance Reviews: Belgium 2007

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26 Mar 2007
9789264031128 (PDF) ;9789264031111(print)

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This comprehensive review of Belgium's environmental policies and programmes examines the full range of issues including air and water management, nature and biodiversity management, climate change, sustainable development, environmental taxation, environmental policy, and international co-operation. It includes a statistical annex containing key environmental data.
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  • Air and Water Management
    Features • Good progress in reducing air emissions • Remaining air quality problems • Integration of air concerns into transport policies • Internalising transport externalities • Curbing the impact of intensive agriculture on water bodies • Catching up on the backlog in waste water infrastructure • Achieving cost recovery for waste water management expenditure • Testing the international river basin approach of the EU Water Framework Directive
  • Nature and Biodiversity Management
    During the review period, Belgium stepped up very significantly its efforts to protect nature and biodiversity. A comprehensive assessment of biodiversity and inventory of species was completed. Protected areas were expanded and now cover 11.6% of the country. Wallonia designated new nature parks and other protected areas, the Brussels-Capital Region set up a "green and blue network", and Flanders established a legal framework for development of the Flemish Ecological Network, of which about 70% has been designated. Nearly 13% of the national territory was designated as part of Natura 2000, providing new opportunities to combat fragmentation of habitats, expand protected areas and further involve stakeholders (farmers, forest owners) in nature conservation.
  • Environmental-Economic Interface
    Belgium made progress over the review period in decoupling environmental pressures from economic growth for some conventional pollutants (e.g. SOx and NOx emissions) and for water abstractions. Growth in household waste for final disposal was also decoupled from economic growth due to high rates of recycling. Sustainable development institutions were developed at the federal level (Sustainable Development Law, establishment of a governmental committee and of a council for sustainable development, creation of a Secretary of State position for sustainable development). Two federal plans were adopted along the three pillars of sustainable development, together with evaluation and consultation procedures. Principles of sustainable development were also embodied in the regional environmental plans. The regional governments made some progress in integrating environmental concerns into agriculture (by augmenting support for agri-environmental measures). Climate change policy is moving ahead with the regional climate change plans and national burden-sharing agreement, and through a range of domestic measures, participation in the EU emission trading scheme and the Kyoto Protocol flexibility mechanisms.
  • Environmental-Social Interface
    Innovative pricing and financing instruments now help ensure access for all to essential environmental services such as water services. Water pricing differentiates between (low-priced) essential uses and (high-priced) luxury uses. Belgium can be considered to be fully implementing the right to water in its internal legislation. People in need will not be disconnected and the price of water will be affordable to poor households. Wallonia will introduce a tax on billed public water supply to finance development assistance in the water sector. Concerning environmental information, environmental data collection and publication improved substantially at regional and federal levels, leading to high quality environmental reporting, to more evidence-based and outcome-oriented environmental governance, and to performance-oriented planning.
  • Environmental-Health Interface
    Belgium has vigorously taken up the challenge posed by the growing concerns about health and environment (e.g. growing numbers of respiratory diseases, asthma, allergies, cancers and obesity). The federal government, regions and communities closely collaborate on environmental health issues and have signed a co-operation agreement with the force of law. At all levels, the governments give importance to science-based assessments, providing information to the population, the precautionary principle, planning and action. During the review period they adopted the National Environment and Health Action Plan (NEHAP), which will soon include measures on children’s environmental health (CEHAP), and established a permanent management structure to carry out joint research and monitoring.
  • International Co-operation
    In recent years, Belgium has improved its record in ratifying international agreements and in transposing EU Directives, and has reduced delays in ratification processes as a result of enhanced co-ordination between federal and regional authorities on international issues. Concerning marine issues, Belgium initiated "seause planning" and the creation of marine parks in its newly designated exclusive economic zone, following ratification of the Law of the Sea in 1999. Aerial surveillance of illegal discharges at sea was extended (Bonn Protocol); the control of ships calling at Belgian ports was improved to comply with the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on port state control; and efforts were made to strengthen oil spill preparedness, response and control.
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