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7.7.1Flanders’ position in green technology
The EIB Investment Report (EIB, 2021, p. 272) reveals that, in terms of green patents, the European Union is leading in volume. It is closely followed by Japan, but well ahead of the United States and China. In 2017, the number of green patents by the European Union was almost 50% higher than the United States. As a share of the total portfolio, green patents in Europe were 70% higher than in the United States.
When we look at the position of Flanders within Belgium and within the European Union, we show in Figure 1a that Belgium partly follows the European trend, with increased green tech activity up until about 2010, after which stagnation is visible. For Europe, the growth lasts until 2012, after which a slight decline sets in. For Flanders, the trend is more even, with a small increase occurring over the considered period. Figure 2b additionally shows that the share of green technologies in Belgium and also in Flanders is generally lower than the European share, especially after 2008 (10% and 11% for Belgium and Europe respectively; 8% for Flanders). To strengthen its contribution to the twin transition in Belgium and in Europe as a whole, these numbers suggest that Flanders has to devote extra attention to the technological green part of the transition.
Figure 1a. Number of green tech patents (EPO)
Figure 1b. Share of green tech patents within the total patent portfolio (EPO)
As further discussed in the EIB Investment Report (EIB, 2021, p.286), the discourse on fighting climate change focuses heavily on modifying energy systems, whereas other factors such as materials and land use are also important (IPCC, 2018)2. Steel, cement, aluminium and plastics are some of the materials that make up a large share of carbon emissions and demand for them is increasing rapidly. Another example is the transport sector, which still accounts for 24% of direct carbon emissions from fuel combustion (IEA, 2020)3. Hence, several complementary technologies need to be developed to support transformation in traditional sectors. The same imperative holds for an increase in circularity in our economies and societies. In this context, digital technologies are seen as having enormous potential.
1 OECD (2017), Green Growth Indicators 2017, OECD Green Growth Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264268586-en
2 IPCC (2018). “Global Warming of 1.5°C: an IPCC Special Report on the Impacts of Global Warming of 1.5°C Above Pre-industrial Levels and Related Global Greenhouse Gas Emission Pathways, in the Context of Strengthening the Global Response to the Threat of Climate Change.” Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
3 IEA (2020). “Tracking Transport 2020.” IEA, Paris https://www.iea.org/reports/tracking-transport-2020