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Greenhouse gas emissions reduction and materials flow

Research project CG/DD1/31A (Research action CG)

Persons :

  • M.  GOETGHEBUER Didier - Institut de Conseil et d'Etudes en Développement durable (ICEDD)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/1998-30/4/2001
  • M.  DEFEYT Philippe - Institut pour le Développement Durable (IDD)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/1998-15/12/2000
  • Prof. dr.  WOUTERS Guido - Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek (VITO)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/1998-30/4/2001

Description :


Following the Kyoto Protocol, Belgium HAS committed itself, within the European Union, to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 7.5% over the period 2008-2012 compared to 1990-1995 levels.

Given the substantial proportion of carbon dioxide (CO2) in total emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in Belgium (more than 80%), improvements in energy efficiency will have to be pursued and consolidated in all sectors of activity.

Following the inclusion of other gases (methane, nitrogen protoxide, certain industrial gases) in the Protocol, efforts will have to be made in the fields of industrial processes, products and agriculture. Furthermore, documents from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) point to the need to determinate strategies in the long term with a view to continuing efforts beyond the year 2010.

Therefore, it will be necessary to be in a position to utilise the fresh possibilities for GHG emissions abatement and to implement effective instruments that will produce synergies between the various actors involved. The « greenhouse gas emissions reduction and flows of materials» project, undertaken by the Walloon Institute (IW), VITO and IDD and co-ordinated by IW, sets out to identify supplementary options for emissions abatement that might be introduced in the long term.


The options studied in this project relate to the different possibilities for cutting greenhouse gas emissions resulting from choices of materials and manufacturing processes made in the sectors producing the various categories of goods and services. Using a "chain" approach, the aim is to evaluate the abatement potential of GHG emissions.
This might be operated at two levels:

- At the domestic end consumer level: by improving knowledge of the respective environmental impacts of various sectors resulting in a given category of products, and by developing signals to encourage consumer choices that will favour the most "eco-efficient" chains, it will be possible to help abate GHG emissions.

- At the level of Belgium’s overall economic system: on the basis of detailed knowledge from sectors associated with various materials and their impact during their life cycle, policy-makers may integrate a preventive approach to the fight against global warming in their socio-economic choices.

On the basis of an analysis that is both sector-specific as well as macro-economic, options will be identified for abating GHG emissions in relation to these sectors and the most suitable instruments identified in order to valorise these options. The study will focus on analysing three chains in particular: building materials for housing, packaging for consumption products, and products from cattle breeding.


The study will be based on two complementary approaches: a detailed analysis of the three chains, and a macro-economic and sector-specific macro analysis whose starting point will be the application of the MARKAL-MATTER model (MATerials Technologies for greenhouse gas Emission Reduction) integrating the analysis of flows of materials, as developed by the Netherlands Energy Research Foundation (ECN, Netherlands).

A literature search on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) studies, material flow analysis and energy data is being carried out by VITO.

VITO and the IW are working on the compilation of data and their integration in a database so that information is available that will allow:

- Detailed characterising of the three product categories studied and their production sector from cradle to grave.
- Characterising of the Belgian system of flows of materials occurring in the three sectors being studied.
- Evaluating GHG and tropospheric ozone precursors (NOx, CO and VOC) emissions generated by all the concerned activities.

Next, a detailed analysis of the sectors associated with the three product categories is scheduled in order to pinpoint more accurately the GHG emissions generated via different consumption choices, taking account of stages upstream and downstream. Also involved is an evaluation of GHG abatement linked to technology advances in existing processes or from the use of alternative chains catering for the same end need.

The study will carry a general description of the chains (products and processes, main supplier sectors), including an evaluation of direct and indirect GHG emissions. Other associated emissions (notably tropospheric ozone precursors, acidification) may be studied. Technological and behavioural alternatives will be examined and an environmental and socio-economic evaluation then conducted.

Each product will be studied by the three associated partners, under the responsibility of one of them and in line with the following split:

- VITO will be responsible for packaging and packaging waste processing ;
- IW will be responsible for building materials ;
- IDD will be responsible for cattle breeding.

IDD will offer its expertise on socio-economic affairs for the study of the three sectors .

In addition, a macro-economic analysis of the three product categories will be developed based on the results obtained using the MARKAL model.

The MARKAL (MARKet ALlocation) model is a technological and economic optimisation model developed within the framework of the "Energy Technology Systems Analysis Programme" (ETSAP) group of the International Energy Agency (IEA). It allows the evaluation of GHG emission abatement policies. The model was originally developed for energy systems analysis.

A MARKAL version (MATTER) has been developed by ECN in the Netherlands that will combine energy and material systems within the same model. This enables the analysis of GHG abatement methods to be extended to cover substitutions between production processes and/or materials. The materials system includes industrial process, product use and waste management (collection, disposal, recycling and energy recovery).

This model and the major database associated with it will be adapted in order to take account of project objectives and specific Belgian aspects regarding the three chains.

Several scenarios will be tested in order to know the environmental impacts of changing consumption patterns, which meet a certain materials and product demand, and of changing production processes. Different constraints such as emission level limits, emissions taxation, product taxes, waste management taxes, etc., could be tested.

INSTITUT WALLON and VITO will jointly carry out the whole of phase four of the project. IDD will also offer its expertise for the analysis and discussion of results, in particular with regard to socio-economic aspects.

Expected results

The ultimate objective of the study is to produce recommendations that will make it possible to valorise and accompany the various options highlighted for emissions abatement.

Moreover, it will produce practical tools for subsequent use:

- A database of flows of materials and environmental impacts.
- MARKAL model, extended to MATTER and integrating the flows of materials specific to realities in Belgium.
- Relevant recommendations with regard to sustainable development indicators and in respect of statistical needs.

Scientific collaboration

The project implies a collaboration with ECN for MATTER utilization and development and a participation to the international platform Con Account ("Coordination of Regional and National Material Flow Accounting for Environmental Sustainability") coordinated by the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy (Germany). Furthermore, the authors of this project wish this research to contribute to the IPCC activities.

Documentation :

Greenhouse gas emissions reduction and materials flows: final report  Nemry, F. - Theunis, J. - Brechet, Th. ... et al.  Brussels: OSTC, 2001 (SP0733)
[To download]  [Exhausted] 

Réduction des émissions de gaz à effet de serre et flux de matières: résumé    Bruxelles: SSTC, 2001 (SP0747)
[To download

Greenhouse gas emissions reduction and material flows: summary report    Brussels: OSTC, 2001 (SP0748)
[To download

Housing system analysis: annex to the report (1)
Part I: Detailed description of the system and evaluation of the potential of emissions reduction
  Institut Wallon  Brussels: OSTC, 2001 (SP0749)
[To download

Housing system analysis: annex to the report (2)
Part II: processes description
  Institut Wallon  Brussels: OSTC, 2001 (SP0750)
[To download

Analysis of the literature: annex to the report (3)  VITO  Brussels: OSTC, 2001 (SP0751)
[To download

Production and use of beverage packaging: annex to the report (4)  VITO  Brussels: OSTC, 2001 (SP0752)
[To download

Materials used for packaging and building: plastics, paper and cardboard, and aluminium: annex to the report (5)  VITO  Brussels: OSTC, 2001 (SP0753)
[To download

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