Why is this important?
With the Zero Pollution Action Plan, part of the Green Deal, the European Commission wants to reduce the pollution of air, water and soil by 2050 to a level that no longer harms the health of people and the environment. For years, our companies have been taking action to significantly reduce their emissions into the environment. We are committed to further reducing our direct environmental emissions and also to identifying and addressing our indirect environmental impacts in the chain (both upstream and downstream).
Belgium ranks sixth among OECD countries with the highest water stress. We therefore have to use water efficiently in our country. At the same time, water is an essential raw material for many industrial processes. About a quarter of the total water consumption in Belgium is accounted for by industry; a little over half is used for industrial cooling. If we leave cooling water out of consideration, the technological industry only contributes 5.6% of the total water consumption. Nevertheless, we want to further reduce our water consumption.
Our companies have also made considerable efforts in recent years to reduce their emissions to surface water. For example, the waste load of metals has been greatly reduced. We take our responsibility to reduce our water emissions even further.
In the EU, more than 400,000 premature deaths are caused by air pollution every year (source: European Environment Agency). Europe wants to reduce this number by 52% by 2030 compared to 2005, by bringing air quality standards closer to those recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). It also wants to reduce the area of ecosystems where eutrophication limits are exceeded by 35% compared to 2005. Our members have already made strong commitments to reducing their air emissions in recent years. We are committed to further reducing our air emissions.
Soil is a key provider of ecosystem services such as food production, groundwater purification, water retention to reduce flooding, carbon sequestration and so on. Yet some 60-70% of soils in the EU are not healthy (source: European Commission). Industrial pollution is one of the causes; in Belgium it is mainly historical pollution. Preventive measures ensure that new soil pollution, as a result of calamities, remains minimal. Our members meet their obligations to carry out soil surveys and soil decontamination where necessary.
Digital technology helps with environmental monitoring
Digital and other technologies is helping to reduce the environmental impact of our own sector and that of other sectors and companies. For example, the Internet of Things makes it possible to use sensors, data and network technology to monitor water and air quality in real-time. Technology also creates many opportunities to monitor and reduce the risk of floods and droughts, e.g. AI used to predict the flooding of watercourses quickly and accurately. Data management and data analytics are used to capture, analyze and connect large amounts of measurements to make environment-related decisions.
- We protect the environment by reducing further our emissions to air, water and soil.
- Total water consumption
- Consumption of groundwater, surface water and tap water versus water reuse
- Total discharge of metal, nutrients and oxygen binding substances to surface water
- Total emission of particulate matter and NMVOCs (non-methane volatile organic compounds) to air
- Acidifying depositions
- Number of exploratory soil investigations still to be carried out
Where are we today?
(In this section only figures about the Flemish Region are given. In our next report we will aim to include figures for the Brussels and Walloon Regions as well.)