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European legislation

Two European directives form the basis of air policy in Belgium: directive 2008/50/EC describes the targets for the concentrations of the main air pollutants while directive 2016/2284 sets the reductions of national emissions

These two pillars are complemented by directive 2004/107/EC on the concentrations of some additional, specific substances (As, Cd, Hg, Ni, PAHs) and directives on emissions within some specific sectors such as the industrial emissions directive 2010/75/EU (IED), the type-approval of motor vehicles EC 715/2007 (known as the 'euro standards') and the ecodesign requirements for wood-burning stoves EC 2015/1185.

In addition to these legal provisions, the WHO air quality guidelines are authoritative, translating the latest scientific findings into recommendations for concentrations.

2008/50/EC on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe

The first major pillar is the directive on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe, also known as the AAQD. The directive first describes how pollutants should be measured and at which locations, followed by requirements for limit and target values, information and alert thresholds, critical levels and long-term objectives for different pollutants. Finally, it lays down how the data should be shared with the public.

The limit values are described in this FAQ. In our annual air quality report, we always test the entire Belgian territory against these concentrations.

2016/2284 on the reduction of national emissions of atmospheric pollutants

The second pillar is the directive that imposes emission reductions on all member states. The 'national emission reduction commitments' are expressed as percentage reductions compared to the year 2005. The following commitments apply to Belgium:

Ceiling NOx NMVOC SOx NH3 PM2.5
2020–2029* -41% -21% -43% -2% -20%
2030* -59% -35% -66% -13% -39%

*compared to 2005

These reductions are reviewed annually against a comprehensive national emissions inventory. On this page, the directive is described in more detail and the inventory can be downloaded.

World Health Organisation air quality guidelines

Although not legally binding, WHO air quality guidelines are the main science-based reference framework for what constitutes 'healthy' outdoor air. The concentrations prescribed are the lowest concentrations for which there is evidence of adverse health effects.

Our BelAQI air quality index used on our website and in the BelAir application is based on the WHO air quality guidelines.

¹ For the basic distinction between concentrations and emissions, see this FAQ.