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Capital of Belgium

Brussels is the capital of Belgium and has a population of 1.12 million inhabitants. It is a centre for international politics, hosting among others the headquarters of the European Union (EU) and of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). The city has a unique mixture of the two linguistic groups and a large international population with 25% non-Belgian residents. The public transport system consists of metro lines, trams and buses, but transport in the city relies to a large part on private motorised transport. Over the last few years, the city has worked towards increasing its share of public transport and cycling.

Overall Grade: D 64%

Pie Chart 64
  • Graph Reduction Success Local Emissions
  • Graph Low Emission Zones & Bans of High Emitters
  • Graph Public Procurement Clean Cars
  • Graph Non-Road Mobile Emission Sources
  • Graph Use of Economic Incentives
  • Graph Traffic & Mobility Management Incl. Modal Split
  • Graph Promotion of Public Transport
  • Graph Promotion of Walking & Cycling
  • Graph Transparency & Communication Policy


Reduction Success Local Emissions

Since 2008 the number of days exceeding the PM10 daily limit values at the Molenbeek traffic station decreased significantly from 46 to 29 (2012), the annual mean concentration reduced from 32.2 to 25.3 µg/m3 (2012). The background concentration of PM10 at the Uccle station has remained at a high level for years, at 25.9 µg/m3 in 2012. NO2 annual mean concentrations slightly decreased from 43.8 to about 40.6 µg/m³ between 2008 and 2012, not far above the EU limit value of 40µg/m³. Background concentrations of NO2 are relatively low.

Traffic is one of the most important sources of pollution in the city. Locally, traffic is the highest pollution source, with a 72% share for PM10 and a 61% share for NOx.

Note: Due to a editorial mistake, the website initially claimed that the NO2 levels reached „conformity with the EU limit values.“ With an annual limit of 40µg/m³, Brussel is not far above, however it did not reach compliance so far.

Low Emission Zones & Bans of High Emitters

After a study on effects of a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) in Brussels, the Ministry decided not to introduce an LEZ on the basis of environmental performance criteria. However, in May 2013 Brussels adopted a “Zone d’Action Prioritaire pour l’Air” (Priority Air Action Zone) which allows the municipality to introduce temporary or permanent restrictions on mobility and transport and to use subsidies to promote air quality.

So far no restrictive measures have been launched using the “Code bruxellois de l’Air, du Climat et de la Maîtrise de l’Energie” (Bussels Code of Air, Climate and Energy Management). An integration of climate and air pollution policy is characteristic of the strategy on the national and city levels. But this provision has not been used so far.

Public Procurement Clean Cars

Brussels has a clean bus fleet with almost 70% Euro V, Enhanced Environmentally Friendly Vehicles (EEV) or buses equipped with particle filters. The municipal vehicle fleet, however, is less environmentally friendly with only 25% of passenger cars and heavy and light duty vehicles meeting or exceeding Euro 5/V standards.

Public administrations with more than 50 vehicles in their fleet are evaluated on the basis of ‘ecoscore’ indicators that take into account greenhouse gas emissions (CO2), air pollution (PM10 and NO2) and noise. Also, public transport contracts have been subject to environmental indicators for their renewal since 2012.

Non-Road Mobile Emission Sources

EU regulations were implemented into national law, but no further information could be retrieved about national, regional or local instruments determining how to decrease emissions from construction machinery or other non-road mobile machinery.

Use of Economic Incentives

Brussels has worked out a parking concept with 4 zones regulating about 60% (approx. 135,000) of all parking spaces in Brussels. The parking concept aims to decrease the number of parking spaces by 16% until 2018. Also, parking prices have increased, especially regarding parking duration: Parking prices range from €1.50 to a maximum of €3.50. Prices increase with every additional hour of parking. Parking duration is limited to 2-3 hours.

Since 2006, the Brussels region has had a system to encourage individuals to get rid of their cars called the “Bruxell’Air” subsidy (a scrappage scheme including incentives to buy new bicycles and join car sharing schemes). Enterprises get investment premiums for buying electric cars.

Traffic & Mobility Management Incl. Modal Split

The city undertakes capacity management for main roads and is expanding the 30km/h zones, in particular in the “hyper-centre” and in all residential areas. The modal share of cars in the city was planned to decrease by 6% by 2015 and by 20% by 2020. In 2010 the share of cars was still very high (42.6%). The metropolitan area has a share of private motorised transport of 33.5%. Cycling targets for 2020 are particularly impressive, from 3.5% in 2010 in the inner city to 20% in 2020.

Brussels aims at reducing space for cars in favour of bicycles and buses. The Mobiris mobility centre manages traffic centrally and is to become a multimodal information centre: you can gather information about Cambio (car sharing), Villo (bike sharing), Collecto night taxis (taxi sharing), workplace travel plans, travel plans for schools and events, and awareness raising programmes. The region funds the Taxistop carpooling centre, which is an awareness action database and manager. Cambio car sharing was launched in 2004. By 2010 it had 180 vehicles, 60 stations, and 5,000 members.

Promotion of Public Transport

Public transport almost doubled its modal share between 1998 and 2010, reaching 28%. This was achieved through a diversity of measures implemented during the last five years: the seating capacity of buses increased by 13%, 17 new bus night lines were created, and bus frequencies were raised. From 2015 onwards, the number of seats will be raised again by 7%. A New Plan Directeur bus will evaluate and improve measures.

A new tram line has been opened and others have been extended or increased in frequency. Further comprehensive improvements are planned for the coming five years (raising the number of seats by 6%). Additionally, the Metro frequency has been increased.

Promotion of Walking & Cycling

The share of bicycles in Brussels has been very low (2.5%), but the city has ambitious plans to raise it to 20% by 2020. The municipality plans to expand the number of bicycles and cycle lanes. The bicycle plan targets 100% of bikeable roads, creating cycling connections with neighbouring regions, developing 70km of cycling corridors along the train lines, better road signs and a higher possibility for intermodality between bicycle and public transport. For example, bicycles can be carried on public transport for free except during rush hours. Since May 2009, the Villo bike rental system has been offered at 360 stations with 4,000 bikes at the end 2013 (almost doubled since 2010).

Awareness building measures such as “Friday Bike Day”, “Bike to Work”, “Bike Experience”, guided bike tours, bike rentals in parks, etc. promote the modal shift to cycling. Walking is being promoted by expanding pedestrian zones to 10 km in 2016, to 20 km in 2020 and to 40 km in 2040. Brussels aims to increase the share of pupils living less than 1km from their schools who walk to school to 70% in 2016 and 80% in 2020.

Brussels Mobiel, Iris (Fr.):

Transparency & Communication Policy

Brussels municipality has a comprehensive programme for communicating with the public about air quality. Brussels provides a website with extensive information on air quality, current measurement values, interactive information on stations and background information about legislation. There is an info phone and SMS alarm service, but only a general mail contact to the Institut Bruxellois pour la Gestion de L’Environnement (Brussels Institute for Environmental Management). Furthermore, public TV channel RTBF provides air quality bulletins, which are also to be found in print media and radio spots, in addition to awareness raising activities. When developing air quality plans, the public is consulted. Special communication possibilities are given to journalists.

City website on air quality monitoring (Fr.):

Response to Questionnaire

The City replied to the questionnaire.