As announced, Greenpeace is suing the Walloon and Flemish governments to obtain more representative measures of air quality. On 11 September last year, the NGO gave notice to the ministers for the Environment Carlo Di Antonio (for Wallonia) and Joke Schauvliege (for Flanders). They responded that the pollution systems currently implemented meet European and regional standards. Unconvinced, Greenpeace will now sue both regions.
Juliette Boulet, the spokeswoman for Greenpeace Belgium explains, “The main problem in Wallonia remains that the network for measuring air pollution is not very representative, in particular for nitrogen dioxide (NO2). The absence of measurements, within highly urban areas, means that official figures underestimate the actual exposure of citizens to air pollution.”
The organisation believes that the authorities should take account of the “urban canyon” effect: pollution tends to stagnate within straight roads lined with high buildings. In Flanders, scientific research showed that such canyons exist in all large cities, and that the European standard for nitrogen dioxide is regularly exceeded. There is “no reason” to believe that cities in Wallonia will be spared this.
In Wallonia, there is no measuring station located in the most problematic areas. Greenpeace considers that the data collected are not fairly representative.
The association is critical that, in Flanders, the gap between official figures and actual pollution is acknowledged, but the region has not adapted its policy accordingly. In the north of the country, Greenpeace is demanding a new emergency plan on air quality, as well as a specific plan for Antwerp. The reason for the move in the north is that official figures show the region is not abiding by the relevant pollution thresholds.