Ghent's CO2-Neutrality Policy: MUSIC in Our Ears
By 2050, the City of Ghent aims to be climate-neutral. To reach this ambitious goal it follows a two-track policy: pro-active transition management and instruments to support policy decisions. Four other cities – Aberdeen, Montreuil, Ludwigsburg, Rotterdam – teamed up with Gent in the MUSIC project (Mitigation in Urban areas: Solutions for Innovative Cities). Supported by research institutes, the MUSIC cities aim to halve CO2 emissions by 2030. In MUSIC, all cities go through a transition process, making CO2 reduction an integral part of urban planning. The MUSIC cities use the DRIFT transition management method which involves stakeholders (businesses, government, research institutes, citizens) and results in a local sustainability vision and action plan. Ghent sees itself as a "creating city, a pioneer in the development of a sustainable, solidary and open society". For the future, Ghent deputy mayor Tom Balthazar dreams of "going on a walk with my grandchildren and joking about the unnecessary grief we had forty years earlier concerning the climate crisis".
Picture credits: City of Ghent - Peter Van Hoof
Transition Arenas and Climate Workgroups: From Vision to Action
In 2009, Ghent launched a participatory process called Climate Alliance. After preliminary analyses, Ghent opened so-called Transition Arenas in 2011. These grow slowly through the participants' networks and develop visions for the future as well as possible transition paths. Climate Workgroups make the shift from vision to action, uniting stakeholders around concrete cases and objectives. Public Climate Forums guarantee the interchange of experience. To mention one example, 23 cultural organisations joined forces in the Green Track Climate Workgroup to reduce their own ecological footprint as well as that of their visitors. Ghent facilitates the cooperation of stakeholders by exploiting financial leverages, actively matching relevant stakeholders to tangible business cases and offering information, e.g. energy maps.
A Happy Tune: The MUSIC Toolbox
Another of Ghent's aims is to objectify policy through instruments. In MUSIC, the most relevant tools are the creation of energy maps gathering comprehensive geospatial data, and renewable energy scans identifying the current and future potential of renewables. The abatement cost curve (ACC) is another method in modelling transitions paths. The ACC is not based on CO2-efficiency alone but includes economical, ecological and social principles. It is a dynamic, continually revised master plan and links CO2 consumption to the potential in renewables. It aligns different policy actions and spots opportunities for innovation. Finally, it defines actions with an investment cycle of 15-plus years that require preparation now.
Ghent has long been a signatory of Climate Alliance, the Kyoto Protocol and the Covenant of Mayors. In order to save energy, the city realises a range of measures, reaching from the replacement of 20.325 light bulbs in 24 of the city's quarters to a strategic plan including corporate social responsibility for the harbour area. The broad offer for citizens features free energy scans and advice, subsidies for building rehabs as well as innovative initiatives such as "Thursday, Veggieday!" which has been copied worldwide. Ghent's is a far-sighted, participatory approach to the mitigation of climate change: music in our ears.
Picture credits: City of Ghent - Niels Donckers