A will and a way

15 February 2020

Cities should be seen as a key partner by the European Commission in its ambitions to realise the Green Deal, according to Ghent’s Mayor, Mathias De Clercq, who also says that cities, such as Ghent, are the frontrunners in making this ambition real.

“Cities are the biggest partner to achieve that ambition, that goal, and Europe should embrace its cities,” says De Clercq, who is proud of his cities’ ambition to become carbon neutral by 2050.

One touchstone of Ghent’s vision is its determination to work with companies, for whom the city administration has helped set up a customised coaching scheme to teach them about possible avenues for CO2 reduction, and to encourage them towards making investments in energy efficiency.

The way the scheme works is across three levels: light, medium and high according to each companies’ current level of energy use.

The ‘light’ energy users are companies using less than 100,000kWh/year – who can benefit from up to 10 hours of customised advice each year from the city administration, as well as an energy review, alongside implementation guidance.

The ‘medium’ users (100,000-500,000 kWh/year) and ‘high’ users are additionally entitled to one year of customised coaching, provided they agree to make the payment of €400 or €700 respectively.

So far, more than 100 medium and high energy users have supported the scheme, saving an estimated 6,280 tonnes of CO2 entering the atmosphere each year.

An associated service for citizens, available via a one-stop-shop energy hub, has led to an estimated annual saving of 5,800 tonnes of CO2.

According to De Clercq, the strength of cities lies in such innovations as these. “We have to show these nice examples to other cities,” he says, “and to exchange good practices and I think that EUROCITIES is a very good platform to do that…to bring cities together, and to say together to the European institutions, we believe in Europe, but we need a different Europe. A Europe of citizens, of cities.”

Ghent is already one of the lead cities taking action within the Covenant of Mayors, and, as written about earlier on this site, the city recently received a UN Climate Action Award for its food policy, ‘Gent en Garde’, which contributes to its climate action goals by applying principles from the circular economy as well as considering the type of food we are putting on our plate.

For example, “every Thursday in Ghent, there is Thursdays Veggie Day, where in all kinds of schools the meals are vegetarian” says De Clercq.

There are many lessons that other governance levels can learn from cities, which is why De Clercq is keen that we not only share these examples from cities, but also “show to the world, and to Europe, that in cities there is the dynamism, in the cities there are the ideas, there is the ambition.”

Watch the video to find out more:


Alex Godson Eurocities Writer