On May 2 2013 the Brussels Capital Region Parliament adopted the Brussels Code on Air, Climate and Energy Management. It was published in the Belgian State Gazette on May 21 2013 and partially entered into force on May 31 2013. The code is an innovative instrument that takes an integrated approach to air, climate and energy management in the Brussels Capital Region.
The objective of the code is twofold. On the one hand, it aims to provide an integrated approach to air, climate and energy management in the Brussels Capital Region. However, it is more than a mere codification of existing Brussels ordinances on air, climate and energy management. It also implements a number of recently adopted EU directives falling within the ambit of the code (eg, Directive 2010/31/EC on the energy performance of buildings and the new rules on greenhouse gas emission allowances provided in Directive 2009/29/EC).
On the other hand, the code provides a legal framework for policy instruments to tackle a number of issues related to air, climate and energy, and to meet the European and international commitments of the Brussels Capital Region – that is, a 30% reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and compliance with European standards on air quality. In order to achieve these goals, the main instrument will be an integrated air-climate-energy plan to be issued every five years.
The code is composed of four books:
- Book 1 – general provisions (ie, how to draft, approve and execute the integrated regional air-climate-energy plan);
- Book 2 – measures for the construction and transport sector;
- Book 3 – specific provisions with regard to air and climate (ie, more detailed rules on greenhouse gas emissions and trading schemes); and
- Book 4 – final provisions.
Books 1, 3 and 4 entered into force on May 31 2013. Book 2 will enter into force on a later date set by the Brussels Capital Region government.
On its entry into force, Book 2 will bring into play a number of additional requirements for companies. The most important changes are highlighted below.
Companies and associations that own and/or use buildings in the Brussels Capital Region with a total floor space of over 100,000 square metres will be required to draw up a local action plan for energy management. The local action plan must provide a coherent overview of measures to be taken to control the energy use of the buildings and to achieve a targeted reduction in energy use within the buildings. In order to draft the plan and ensure its implementation, the company will have to revert to a coordinator authorised by the Brussels Institute for Environmental Management to draw up and follow up with the plans.
At present, local action plans for energy management are drawn up and complied with on a voluntary basis, and the scope of application is limited to schools, municipalities and hospitals.
Companies that employ more than 100 employees on the same site will be required to draft an individual business transport plan. Separate companies that each have fewer than 100 employees, but that together with other companies on the site or in the same building exceed 100 employees, will also have to draft a business transport plan. In this latter case, a common business transport plan can be drawn up.
The business transport plan aims to create a long-term strategy for the companies concerned by gradually implementing a number of concrete measures to strike the right balance between:
- the interests of general mobility;
- the quality of the environment, including air quality; and
- the socio-economic interests of the company.
For sites hosting activities involving the participation of more than 1,000 people a day (eg, shopping centres and concert halls), an activities transport plan will have to be drafted. The activities transport plan aims to:
- improve mobility, environment, air quality and quality of life on the site hosting the activities and its surroundings, and minimise the impact of the activities undertaken on the site; and
- encourage more participants to travel by foot, bicycle or public transport, and to use their cars more responsibly.
Brussels is one of the most traffic-congested cities in the world. In order to encourage alternative means of transport, the code provides a legal basis for the restriction of off-street parking.
The number of off-street parking spaces allowed in a given area will depend on the area's accessibility to public transport. The Brussels Capital Region government will divide the Brussels Capital Region into three zones (A, B and C) based on their accessibility to public transport, with A being the most accessible zone and C being the least accessible.
Buildings in Zone A will be allowed two parking places for the first 250 square metres of floor space, plus one parking place for every additional 250 square metres. Buildings in Zone B will be allowed one parking place for every 100 square metres of floor space. Buildings in Zone C will be allowed one parking place for every 60 square metres of floor space.
The maximum number of allowed parking places will be stipulated in the environmental permit. Derogations are possible where certain conditions are met.
Companies that insist on maintaining their parking places above the maximum thresholds listed above will be subject to an environmental tax. The amount of the tax will vary according to the zone in which the company is located:
- Zone A – €450 per parking place each year;
- Zone B – €350 per parking place each year; and
- Zone C – €250 per parking place each year.
Before the obligations of Book 2 of the code come into force, the Brussels Capital Region government must adopt the required executive orders. Based on the latest information provided by the Brussels Institute for Environmental Management, the Brussels Capital Region is aiming to make at least the local action plans for energy management mandatory by 2015.
For further information on this topic please contact Dominique Devos or Christophe Schelfaut at DLA Piper UK LLP by telephone (+32 2 500 1500), fax (+32 2 500 1600) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com).
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