Ghent aims to become climate neutral by 2050, and as Mayor Mathias De Clercq points out, the Belgian city is already well underway to ensuring this will be achieved.
At the site of the old docks, for example, three large neighbourhood parks and six smaller residential green zones are not only planned to bring new life to an underused area of the city, but also “illustrates that Ghent and many other European cities are partners in the Green Deal,” according to the mayor.
To increase the sense of liveability the renovation project will incorporate design aspects of the city’s industrial past: making features out of refurbished container cranes that once would have dominated the port area.
The site also plays host to several innovative projects, such as the Melopee centre, which functions both as a school and as a neighbourhood sports centre. After school hours, local residents are able to make full use of the sports hall and other areas of the energy efficient building, which incorporates a vertical garden and other plant life.
Through Ghent’s one stop shop for home renovations, De Energiecentrale, a renovation coach offers personal advice to each person looking to renovate their home, so that a plan can be tailored to the needs of different people, housing units and available budget. With this approach, around €30 million was invested into home renovations between 2014 and 2019, creating an extra 660 jobs in the construction sector and removing an average 5,800 tons of CO2 emissions per year, which equates to the average emissions produced by passenger cars driving over 23 million kilometres.
As the mayor explains, “urban renewal is not possible without social renewal” and by investing in its former industrial areas Ghent is able to move forwards on two fronts.
Ghent and the Mayors Alliance for the European Green Deal
In other areas, such as food, Ghent has proven how one city can make a big impact when it comes to fostering a more sustainable lifestyle.
Ghent is also taking steps to become more resistant to droughts and extreme rainfall, such as was experienced only a few weeks ago, by opening up waterways and adding more greenery to ensure water can enter the soil, and offer more cooling, to reduce the urban heat island effect, at times of extreme heat. This includes also many actions taken by Ghentians themselves to add green roofs and street gardens among other actions.
At the core of the projects lies the ambition to make Ghent “a great city to live in,” says the mayor.
The Mayors Alliance for the European Green Deal gathers together a growing coalition of 40 city leaders who are dedicated to making the sustainable transition possible, and seeks to showcase these city actions to demonstrate that a sustainable transition is possible with mayors and cities on board.
As economies bounce back from the Covid-19 crisis, mayors such as De Clercq want to make sure the European Green Deal stays at the top of political agendas.