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Environment

Belgium

In Belgium, as in many other developed countries, the issue of energy use in the built environment continues to grow in terms of public awareness and political importance. The energy efficiency of residential and commercial properties are regulated at regional level. This update reviews the regulatory systems in Belgium's three regions.

Soil and groundwater contamination are subject to detailed regulation in the Flemish, Walloon and Brussels regions. Parties that own, use, hold rights in or seek to acquire contaminated or potentially contaminated land should be aware of their responsibilities and the penalties for non-compliance.

In 2004 the European Court of Justice found that even unintentionally contaminated land can be considered waste. However, it is generally held that this designation can be avoided if a member state or competent region provides for soil clean-up legislation. The Brussels region now plans to introduce a new soil management ordinance to replace the legislation introduced in 2004.

A new decree will radically change the enforcement of environmental offences and infractions - it will be impossible to impose both an administrative fine and a criminal penalty for the same act. The safety measure regime operates separately and may be invoked in the event of significant danger to people or the environment, regardess of whether administrative or criminal fault is involved.

The Flemish Parliament has approved a new decree on soil decontamination and protection, modifying the current strict soil certification requirements for transfers of land. The changes confirm a regulatory tendency to replace the duty to decontaminate with an obligation to manage historical contamination.

The regions of Belgium are responsible for the regulation of environmental matters, including the enforcement of regional environmental laws. The Walloon and Flemish regions are preparing consolidated environmental enforcement laws, replacing the old Belgian tendency to enforce environmental legislation through criminal penalties with a combination of criminal and administrative enforcement.

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