The Walloon Parliament adopted its Climate Decree on 20 February 2014. The Climate Decree is intended to allow Wallonia to meet its own commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020, and 80 to 95% by 2050 as compared to greenhouse gas emissions of 1990. To reach these objectives, the Decree sets up the mechanism of emission budgets and organises for the Air-Climate-Energy Plan to draw up concrete measures to monitor these emission budgets.
According to the Kyoto commitments, Wallonia had to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 7,5% over the period 2008-2012, as compared to the 1990 GHG emissions level. However, the Kyoto objectives are deemed to be largely insufficient to tackle the global warming, and more specifically to avoid the crossing of a "plus two degrees" limit.
Therefore, in the framework of the 2008 Energy Climate Package, the European Union committed to reduce its GHG emissions by at least 20% by 2020. In February 2011, the European Council confirmed the objective of the European Union to reduce the Union's GHG emissions by 80 to 95% by 2050 as compared to the 1990 level.
Consequently, the Walloon Region elaborated a plan towards drastically reducing GHG emissions over the medium and longer terms. The Walloon Parliament, inspired by the 2008 United Kingdom Climate Change Act and its emission budgets corresponding to a certain quantity of GHG that can be emitted during a given period, started the drafting of the Climate Decree in 2012, and adopted its final version on 19 February 2014.
The Climate Decree aims at establishing goals for reducing GHG emissions over the medium and long runs, and at setting up instruments to ensure these will actually be achieved:
- in the medium term, the Decree targets a 30% reduction of GHG emissions by 2020 (as compared to the 1990 level);
- in the longer term, the Decree targets a 80 to 95% reduction of GHG emissions by 2050 (as compared to the 1990 level).
The Walloon Government must determine at the latest by 31 December 2020 the percentage of GHG emissions reduction to reach by 2050. If the Government fails to do so, the percentage will be of 95%.
The Climate Decree covers the six GHG sources targeted by the Kyoto Protocol and located in Wallonia (thus included existing Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) installations). The international aviation emissions are however not covered by the Decree.
An emission budget corresponds to a certain amount of GHG that can be emitted during a given budget period. Emission budgets can thus be described as intermediary objectives, as these are necessary to reach the medium term goal (2020) and the longer term goal (2050).
There are four categories of emission budgets:
- global emission budget setting the total amount of GHG, expressed in tons of CO2 (or equivalent), which can be emitted during a budget period by all sources mentioned in the Decree;
- partial emission budget setting the total amount of GHG, expressed in tons of CO2 (or equivalent), which can be emitted during a budget period by a specific sector;
- annual global emission budget setting the global budget for one year of a budget period;
- annual partial emission budget setting the budget for a specific sector for one year of a budget period.
Emission budgets are determined for a five year budget period. The budget periods are indeed long enough to offer flexibility and predictability, and to allow measures to be effectively implemented.
In order to guarantee a high level of budget predictability, the Climate Decree states that emission budgets are elaborated by the Government 12 years before the pertaining budget period. A Committee of Experts is created to provide assistance in this task. However, the Decree provides for some exceptions to this rule. First, the Decree determines itself determines exceptionally two global emission budgets, to ensure that medium and long term objectives are met:
- for the budget period 2018-2022, the global emission budget is 191.817 kilotons of CO2 (or equivalent);
- for the budget period 2048-2052, the global emission budget is between 13.701 and 54.805 kilotons of CO2 (or equivalent).
Second, the Decree states that the Government must determine within six months after the entry into force of the Decree:
- for the first period budget – starting within six months after the entry into force of the Decree and ending on 31 December 2017 – the global emission budget, the list of sectors concerned, the partial emission budgets, and the annual budgets;
- for the second period budget – 2018-2022 – the partial emission budgets and the annual emission budgets.
Third, the global emission budget, the list of sectors, the partial emission budgets and the annual budgets for the third budget period – 2028-2027 – must be determined for 30 September 2017.
Implementing instruments: the Air-Climate-Energy Plan
To reach the aforementioned objectives, the Government is to establish an Air-Climate-Energy Plan. This Plan outlines the measures the Government intends to adopt in order to respect the emission budgets of the pending budget period and of the upcoming budget periods, and to meet its commitments as to energy and quality of air.
The draft plan is submitted to public inquiry according to the Walloon Environment Code (articles D40 to D45), before being communicated to the Parliament for approval for December 31 of each year during which the Parliament is to approve budgets.
Control of the respect of emission budgets
The Walloon Agency for air and climate (the Agency) is to submit to the Government before June 30 of each year a report regarding the implementing of the Climate Decree. This report has three different parts:
- a monitoring report on the implementation of the measures of the Air-Climate-Energy Plan;
- a report indicating net emissions of GHG during the year before the last elapsed year;
- an advice in which the Agency determines the potential gap of GHG emissions compared to the annual global emission budget and to the partial global emission budget.
The reports are established for the first time in 2015.
On the basis of such reports, the Agency is entitled to make propositions towards the increase of the budget of the pending budget period either by deducting of the global emission budget of the next budget period, or by deferring part of the global emission budget of a past budget period that exceeds net emissions for this period.
Further, global emission budgets that are not defined by the Decree itself but are elaborated by the Government, can be modified as long as the modification does not intervene after the end of the pertaining budget period. The Agency can propose modified emission budgets to the Committee of Experts. It is then up to the Government to decide on the modification.
At the end of a budget period, the Committee of Experts will determine whether the global emission budget has been respected. This advice is communicated to the Agency and to the Government. The latter is to transfer to the Parliament its report on the respect of emission budgets to which is joined the aforementioned advice of the Committee of Experts. The Government, as the case may be, is to propose corrective measures to respect emission budgets.
It can be wondered how the Climate Decree and the ETS Directive, as transposed in Belgian law, will interact together. This issue does not seem to have been addressed by the Walloon Parliament, and the travaux préparatoires of the Decree are silent as to its specific link with the ETS scheme. A lot of questions to be clarified in this sense, namely regarding the sectors concerned by the ETS scheme and by the Air-Climate-Energy Plan (will the latter correspond to the former?), and the coexistence of the Climate Decree and ETS scheme objectives, are thus left open.
Some members of Parliament have also regretted that the Climate Decree was only stating the framework for efforts towards decreasing GHG emissions, without sufficient concrete measures. It is true that such concrete measures will be determined in the Air-Climate-Energy Plan only, which will be the instrument constituting the effective tool in the fight against GHG, and not the Decree itself.
However, the adoption of the Climate Decree is an important step forward, in that it creates a precise framework for the reduction of GHG emissions in Wallonia, targets stringent objectives to do so, and positions the Walloon Region via the Agency at the forefront of the EU climate challenge objectives.