In a Nutshell
- The Flanders region is the leader on CO2 infrastructure development in Belgium, primarily focusing on CCUS. For its part, the Wallonia region has recently set out an ambition to become a key player in the transportation, distribution and utilisation of CO2 to reach climate neutrality by 2050.
- Belgium is cooperating with several countries regarding CO2 transport and storage, including with Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway.
- Flanders is developing several projects that directly or indirectly relate to CDR, including CO2 infrastructure projects and the creation of a Flemish carbon market. Wallonia is focusing on land-based CDR methods, such as soil carbon sequestration. The Region of Brussels has so far shown limited support for CDR.
- Belgium will hold the Council presidency between January and June 2024. Belgium is also holding national elections in June 2024. The development of the Flemish carbon market will continue.
Role for carbon removal in national climate policy
Belgium has developed a Long-Term Climate Strategy to set out how it plans to reach climate neutrality by 2050. It plans for a 95% emissions reductions compared to 1990 levels. The remaining 5% would be compensated by negative emissions, which include both LULUCF-based and engineered removals, such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and direct air carbon capture and storage (DACCS). It is important to note that, following legal challenges between Flanders and the Federal Government, the regions now have exclusive competence over CO2 networks.
At the regional level, Flanders is the leader in CO2 infrastructure development in Belgium, primarily focusing on CCUS. It aims to create CO2 clusters near its ports and industrial areas and to develop CO2 transport infrastructure between these clusters. However, its long-term climate strategy sets a goal to move towards climate neutrality by 2050, corresponding to an 85% emission reduction in economic sectors outside the EU Emission Trading System (ETS). Carbon farming is seen as a way to provide a new source of income for farmers, who are feeling increasingly left out of the green transition in Flanders.
Following the adoption of its current climate law in 2014, the Walloon government is required to produce an Air, Climate and Energy Plan (PACE) every five years. Its most recently updated plan entitled PACE 2030 includes multiple new CDR-related initiatives. In the plan, Wallonia sets out an ambition to become a key player in the transportation, distribution and utilisation of CO2 to reach climate neutrality by 2050. Wallonia also commits to promoting practices that enhance organic soil carbon sequestration.
The Brussels Region recently adopted its own PACE 2030, which only contains brief mentions of CDR. The plan includes plans to plant trees in neighbourhoods with limited tree cover and promote soil health.
The waste sector in Belgium is exploring how it could engage in CDR by capturing biogenic emissions at its incineration plants. The cement sector in Wallonia is responsible for incinerating a wide range of waste in its furnaces, partly of biogenic origins.
Relevant legal frameworks
Belgium has yet to pass any climate law at the federal level.
The Brussels region has set a carbon neutrality objective by 2050 in its climate law, corresponding to a 90% emissions reductions compared to 2005 emissions. In Wallonia, the 2050 climate neutrality target is enshrined in its climate law corresponds to 80% to 95% emissions reductions. The region of Flanders has not yet passed a climate law. It has, however, signaled that carbon neutrality could, in principle, be achieved with negative emissions coming from outside of Flanders.
Internationally, Belgium is cooperating with several countries regarding CO2 transport and storage. It has signed bilateral agreements with Denmark and the Netherlands. It intends to solidify its ties with Norway regarding cross-border CO2 transport by ratifying the London Protocol, after having already signed an agreement on energy cooperation. Given that regions are entrusted with CO2 networks, Flanders has also been an active partner in these agreements as a co-signatory alongside Belgium.
Support for R&D and Innovation
Flanders is involved in several projects that directly or indirectly relate to CDR. Around the port of Antwerp, two projects overlap. The Kairos@c project received a EUR 356 million grant through the Innovation Fund, to launch a full-scale cross-border CCS project, including CO2 capture, liquefaction, shipping and storage in the North Sea. The Antwerp@c project received a EUR 144 million grant from the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) and will develop a CO2 export hub to transport and store CO2 in the Norwegian continental shelf. In the Ghent area, the Ghent Carbon Hub project got a EUR 9.6 million grant from the CEF to develop a CO2 export terminal combined with a CO2 pipeline network to Wallonia. The Moonshot project allocates EUR 20 million annually from 2020 to 2040 for pioneering technologies to decarbonise the industry, covering CCUS and biomass for energy research. The Coastal Carbon Project explores coastal enhanced weathering.
Alongside these various projects, Flanders also leads support mechanisms for conventional CDR. The LIFE-funded CarbonCounts project aims to develop a roadmap for carbon farming in Flanders and a geodata platform to map carbon storage. Several planting subsidies for agroforestry and afforestation also exist. Finally, a Flemish carbon market as part of the LULUCF policy is being planned.
As part of the Common Agricultural Policy’s eco-schemes, Wallonia has several programmes targeted to increase soil organic carbon sequestration, as laid out in PACE 2030, including protecting peatlands, as well as a scheme to remunerate soil organic carbon increases in agricultural soils. It plans to develop more such schemes once the is operational. The PACE 2030 identifies carbon capture and sequestration technologies as a new priority research and innovation area.
The Region of Brussels has limited support for CDR, primarily from Innoviris. The Regional Innovation Plan highlights climate innovation, including biodiversity, agriculture and cleantech, which may encompass both conventional and novel CDR methods.
On the horizon
Belgium’s Council presidency in early 2024 is significant as it’s the last in the current political cycle before European elections. Belgium may play a pivotal role in finalising legislative matters, despite potential distractions from national elections coinciding with EU elections.
The Flemish carbon market is advancing, with upcoming steps and input requests. Flanders is also working on a new decree to facilitate CO2 capture and transport development. Among others, this decree will include non-discriminatory clauses regarding access to CO2 infrastructure, facilitate CO2 transport between clusters, and mandate CO2 transporters to submit 4-year plans how they plan on running the infrastructure.
Wallonia has set out several new measures to support the development of carbon management. These include developing a legislative and administrative framework to enable transport and utilisation of CO2 in Wallonia, putting in place development support for CO2 capture and sequestration projects and related R&D, and identifying underground CO2 storage potential in Wallonia. It is likely that Wallonia will export its CO2 to Norway.
- Net zero target: 2050
- Net Negative Target:
- First interim target: 2030
- Type of interim target: Emissions reduction target
- GHGs covered: Carbon dioxide and other GHGs
- Separate target for emission reduction and removals: No
- Comprehensive CDR Target: no
- CDR Target for Conventional Removals: yes
- CDR Target for Novel Removals: yes
- Historical emissions: No
- Annual reporting mechanism: Annual reporting
- Plans for carbon removal (CDR): Not Specified
- Planning to use external carbon credits: Not Specified
- Conditions on use of carbon credits:
Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Affairs and Foreign Trade and the Federal Culture Institutions – Among others, responsible for bilateral cooperation regarding CO2 transport and storage.
Flemish Minister for Justice and Enforcement, Environment, Energy and Tourism – Responsible for a wide portfolio, the most relevant to CDR being environment and rural policy, nature and natural resources, energy, and spatial planning.
Flemish Minister for Economy, Innovation, Work, Social Economy and Agriculture – Responsible for a wide portfolio, the most relevant to CDR being technological innovation and agriculture.
Walloon Minister of Climate, Energy, Mobility and Infrastructure – Responsible for a wide portfolio, the most relevant to CDR being climate and energy policy.
Walloon Minister of Environment, Nature, Forests, Rural Affairs and Animal Welfare – Responsible for a wide portfolio, the most relevant to CDR being the overseeing of the LULUCF sector.
Walloon Minister of the Economy, Foreign Trade, Research and Innovation, Digital, Agriculture, Regional Planning and Competence Centers – Responsible for a wide portfolio, the most relevant to CDR being new technologies, agriculture and the oversight of competence centres.
National Climate Commission – responsible for developing and monitoring the national climate plan and for complying with EU and international reporting obligations
Innoviris – Public organisation funding and supporting research and innovation in the Brussels-Capital Region