Ghent hosts successful Eurocities Environment Forum 2023
From April 26 to 28, Ghent hosted the Eurocities Environment Forum 2023. We’re looking back on a very successful three-day event.
The focus of this environment forum was on the collaboration between cities and industry in tackling the climate and biodiversity crises. No less than 228 city representatives and policymakers from across Europe shared insights and learnings during workshops, study visits, speeches, and debates.
Keynote speeches and political debate
We heard inspiring keynote speeches by researchers Claire Dupont and Milan Elkerbout on, respectively, governing Europe’s climate transition and industrial decarbonization at European level. Claire Dupont is Professor of European and International Governance at Ghent University and Chair of the European Environment Agency’s Scientific Committee. Milan Elkerbout is Research Fellow and Head of the climate policy program at the Centre for European Policy Studies.
Transformation is inevitable. It’s our responsibility to figure out how we make sure that transformation is as painless as possible, and how we can manage it so that it brings benefits and is not just about responding to crises. If we all coherently understand that we’re moving in the same direction at different levels of governance, then I think we can maybe turn the tide on some of these scary graphs.
The local pathways to collaborate with industry for the energy transition was debated between politicians and industry leaders. Cities are at the forefront of the climate and energy crises and can play a crucial role in supporting EU and national climate objectives. From bringing stakeholders together in one-stop-shops, to permitting industry and financing infrastructure.
If you'd like to know more, you can watch the livestream of both keynote speeches and the political debate here.
Workshops and study visits
Several working groups, each with their own specific focus, were held throughout the forum. Participants were invited to join these sessions, get inspired, and inspire others with their own city’s response to environmental challenges regarding air quality, energy efficiency, green areas and biodiversity, noise, waste, and food.
In addition to these inspiring exchanges of ideas and solutions between cities, we organised four study visits to companies and projects in Ghent:
‘Reducing energy consumption of buildings’, a tour of the Nieuwe Dokken. This newly developed part of Ghent with 400 homes, a daycare center, a school and a sports hall has an innovative heating network. All buildings are heated using organic waste, wastewater and residual heat from a nearby industrial company.
‘Green climate axis’, a bike tour along climate adaptation realisations and cycling infrastructure in Ghent. To tackle our growing vulnerability to flooding, heat and drought, Ghent is investing in a robust blue-green network and soil desealing. Our bike tour showcased both large-scale climate adaptation projects such as the green climate axis, and smaller realisations like community gardens and citizen initiatives to green streets with façade gardens.
‘The protein transition’, a visit to Culinor, the City of Ghent’s school meal contract caterer. During the visit we learned how Ghent’s innovative public procurement and cooperation and co-creation with the caterer result in healthy and seasonal school meals. These school meals are also a great example of putting the protein transition into practice. Participants got to taste some of the vegetarian and half-half meals. They very much approved!
‘Decarbonizing energy-intensive industries’: a visit to Arcelor Mittal. Although lowering emissions from steel production remains a big challenge, the industry is taking steps towards a more sustainable future and has the ambition to produce green steel. We visited the new Steelanol site where CO2 will be converted into bioethanol.
The Ghent food strategy applied throughout the forum
The entire forum was catered according to Ghent’s sustainable food strategy ‘Gent en Garde’. All meals were vegetarian or plant-based and we collaborated with local producers and caterers such as Homblé, Coeur Catering and Taste It. In the evening, dinner was served by vegan caterer Knol & Kool and social restaurant Parnassus.