The Flemish industry carbon circular and low in CO2 by 2050 through the development of marketable innovative technologies in Flanders by 2040

On December 12th 2015, 195 countries, including Belgium, committed themselves in Paris to fight global warming by signing the Climate Agreement. The 195 countries recognized climate change as an urgent and possibly irreversible threat to humanity and the planet. Therefore, the greatest possible cooperation between all countries is required. The global objective is to limit the average global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius by 2100, compared to the pre-industrial period. Additional efforts will be made to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees. Hence, Flanders aims to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions by 35% by 2030 (compared to 2005). The Flemish government supports the European long-term objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% to 95% by 2050 (compared to 1990). Flanders (like the rest of Europe) will have to break with the past and achieve a radical transformation to a climate-friendly and sustainable society.

The Flemish industry is energy-intensive and highly dependent on fossil-based raw materials. On a sector level, the refining, chemical and iron & steel sectors in Flanders together represented nearly 90% of these Flemish industrial ETS emissions. Approximately 86% of the industrial greenhouse gas emissions in 2016 originated from carbon dioxide or CO2. Therefore, CO2 is acknowledged as the most significant industrial greenhouse gas in Flanders.

The moonshot innovation program and the intended transition to a carbon-smart* economy are an important opportunity for Flanders to position itself as a top region for research and innovation in the energy-intensive sectors of society. In addition, it also provides a framework for further internationalization, as the breakthrough technologies and energy innovations developed in Flanders can also be valorized in other regions to address important energy and climate issues.

In addition to extensive innovation, cross-sectoral cooperation and synergy are indispensable for achieving a carbon-smart industry, where new value chains and new business models can be set up. Cross-sectoral cooperation is situated mainly on two main levels, i.e. 1)  energy efficiency and the use of sustainable energy, and 2) material efficiency and the use of sustainable raw materials. Much can be achieved by optimizing the use of raw materials and material flows in industrial core areas through cooperation between companies. The (petro)chemical sector and the steel sector play an important role in connecting sectors and the transition to a more circular economy

* In the framework of the moonshot initiative, preference is given to the term ‘carbon-smart’ instead of ‘low-carbon’. After all, the ‘decarbonization’ of the energy-intensive industry (including chemistry and refining) is intrinsically impossible, since a large part of this industry is based on the element ‘carbon’. Inevitably, carbon-containing raw materials are needed to produce a range of products for almost all downstream sectors. Bio-based plastics, for example, like fossil-based plastics, are built to a very large extent from the carbon atom. CO2 emissions (and their reduction) are the primary objective and not carbon as such. The use of the terms ‘carbon-smart’ and ‘low in CO2’ is therefore more relevant than the use of the term ‘low-carbon ‘.

For additional information on the moonshot initiative, please consult the Concept note in the downloads section.