SUSTAINABILITY

Interview with the

Mayor of Brussels

Philippe Close

June 14, 2023

IMAGE: City of Brussels

As the Mayor of Brussels, Philippe Close holds a pivotal role in one of Europe's most dynamic cities. Since his tenure began, Close has navigated the complexities of urban governance with a keen focus on sustainability, balancing the city's rich history with the demands of modern urban planning. From transforming urban spaces with more greenery to setting rigorous standards for renewable energy and sustainable transportation, Mayor Close's vision for Brussels is both progressive and deeply rooted in the city's identity.

 

Join us as Mayor Close shares insights on Brussels' journey towards a sustainable future, the role of culture in this transition, and the importance of citizen engagement in shaping the city's path.

As the Mayor of Brussels, could you share your vision on how Brussels can become a more climate-resilient city and describe how the citizens are being engaged in this transition?

 

Brussels is one of the greenest capitals of Europe, with 25% of its territory being green space. To become even more resilient, we are creating new pocket parks in places where there is a lot of concrete. We create public green spaces for our families and which benefits the climate. Therefore, every new project in the City needs to comply with a number of sustainable/climate-neutral elements, which they all have to reach. It's important that everybody understands the significance of the ecological transition and that this is inseparable from its social component. To ensure this, we organise sensibilisation campaigns to get people involved. It takes time, but it is essential.

 

Brussels is often referred to as the "Capital of Europe". How does this distinctive status influence the city's approach towards sustainable practices?

 

We have to be a role model for all European cities on a number of topics. That is also the case for sustainability. We follow Brussels', Belgian and European rules in terms of sustainability, and we are really strict in their application.

 

The recent completion of Brussels' Air, Climate and Energy Plan demonstrates the City's ambitious goals, such as boosting renewable energy production by 20% compared to the December 2022 version of the plan. In addition, all diesel vehicles and petrol vehicles within the Brussels region will be prohibited by 2030 and 2035 respectively.

 

The recent completion of Brussels' Air, Climate and Energy Plan demonstrates ambitious goals, such as a 20% boost in renewable energy production compared to the December 2022 version, as well as the plan to prohibit all diesel vehicles by 2030 and petrol vehicles by 2035 within the Brussels region. Could you highlight some key initiatives your administration has undertaken to promote the swift adoption of sustainable transportation alternatives?

 

We introduced, for instance, a new tramline in Neder-Over-Heembeek. It will be 10 km long, coming all the way from Neder-Over-Heembeek into the city centre so that the citizens who live there can easily connect to the centre. Our Good Move plan additionally aims to improve the living quality of our inhabitants and encourages everyone to change their travel habits based on their needs and constraints.

 

It resolutely opts for a pleasant and safe city of peaceful neighbourhoods, connected by intermodal structural corridors and focused on efficient public transport and improved traffic flow.

 

Can you please tell us more about Brussels' initiatives to increase green spaces in the city?

 

Wherever we renovate public spaces in the City, we add more green such as trees, bushes, grass... And as previously mentioned, we create pocket parks. We know that global warming is a fact, so all these actions can add up.

 

In every redevelopment project, maximum efforts are made to increase permeability, implementing open joints and, where possible, the City plants new trees. A pilot study was carried out to see where it is still possible to plant trees in public spaces without touching the cables of the various utility companies. Several squares have now been transformed into urban salons. Thanks to the permeable areas, rainwater flows into the soil, relieving the sewerage network and providing water for the trees. During the hot summer days, trees can continue to provide shade and cooling. Additionally, the City has about 50 fountains and 50 drinkwater taps. The fountains bring cooling and respite as well as a positive experience of our City.

 

Finally, as a city with a rich history and culture, how is Brussels preserving its heritage while simultaneously addressing the challenges posed by climate change?

 

The City of Brussels is committed in many ways to making its territory attractive and dynamic, as well as progressive and sustainable. Culture, through its cultural venues and events, is at the forefront of this political commitment. Our infrastructure keeps climate issues in mind, and addresses these questions every time activities are organised, as well as during their day-to-day operations.

 

These organisations and events ensure optimal reception conditions for the entire population by promoting accessibility, parity and inclusive values that contribute to the City's sustainable development plan. To encourage citizens’ involvement, our cultural venues also try to consult local residents on this inclusive and sustainable policy. We believe that collective intelligence and exchanges with the people of Brussels enable us to raise interesting questions about these challenges and to reflect on alternatives, evolutions and even solutions.

 

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