Bringing Brussels together through inclusive climate action

About the Affordable Cities blog series and #BetterUrbanHousing
People living in cities across the world are facing the effects of the housing affordability and cost-of-living crisis. OECD Champion Mayors recently endorsed the new “OECD Brussels Blueprint for Affordable cities and Housing for All” at the Brussels Urban Summit where they shared innovative solutions to tackle these challenges and drive more inclusive economic growth. They continue to drive efforts that shape a more affordable, equitable and resilient urban future.

The 21st century is rightly referred to as the century of cities. Since 2008, cities have been home to more than half the world’s population despite occupying just 2% of the earth’s surface. Their ecological footprint is vast. Cities already account for 2/3 of the world’s energy consumption and produce 70% of greenhouse gases. With the planet set to host 2 billion more people by 2050, by which time 70% of the world’s 10 billion people will be city dwellers, local authorities and stakeholders have to play a huge part in managing the challenges of accommodating growth and the green transition.

Brussels, the capital of Europe, exemplifies many of the challenges they face. It is experiencing continuous demographic growth, and by 2050 is expected to have the same climate as the city of Lyon, 1,000 kilometres further south.

Supporting those forgotten in the green transition

Providing decent housing for new residents and combatting the effects of climate change must go hand-in-hand. Our aim is to make the city more resilient by supporting those who have been “forgotten in the green transition”. Inequalities in housing closely mirror inequalities in the green transition, and urgent action is needed to close the gap in both.

The City of Brussels is aiming for 100% green energy consumption and carbon neutrality by 2050, with intermediate targets of 55% carbon emissions by 2030, and 75% by 2040. To achieve this, the plan is to renovate 1,000 older social housing units, which leak heat.

The work included in the “Climate Plan” includes insulating buildings, ventilating homes and improving electrical and gas installations. By the end of 2025, almost 3,000 social housing units will have been brought up to high energy-efficiency standards. This will cover 75% of our social housing stock, which is mainly occupied by those who have been “forgotten in the green transition”, or what we call “les oubliés du climat”, because they are too often in the “blind spot” of climate policies and have few financial resources.

Tackling costs and the climate

Improving the energy performance of social housing should make it possible to cut the energy expenses of disadvantaged tenants to a quarter of their current rate, while greatly improving the comfort of their homes. At the same time, carbon-dioxide emissions should fall by 60%. Better insulation is therefore essential for both tenants and the climate. “Energy sobriety” need not lead to discomfort, just a more efficient way of consuming.

At present, 27.4% of households in Brussels are in fuel poverty. Some tenants have energy bills higher than their rent – this needs to change. We are trying to make this happen in Brussels, where the emergency response to current energy challenges is well aligned with our longer-term climate objectives.

Winning hearts and minds

We are conscious that measures to tackle climate change will not succeed if they do not first have a positive impact locally – on the daily lives of vulnerable groups. This has been a core principle of our ambitious “Climate Plan”. We therefore see the fight against fuel poverty as an essential component of the energy transition and are supporting tenants throughout the renovations to our property portfolio.

We are conscious of the risk that cost-of-living pressures crowd climate issues out of the public consciousness. We are therefore doubling down our efforts to raise awareness of the urgent need for action. The sustainable and resilient city that Brussels aspires to become requires actions on many fronts to win hearts, minds and volunteers to our cause and to ensure that climate action supports positive social change.

About the OECD Champion Mayors Initiative
Created in 2016, the OECD Champion Mayors for Inclusive Growth Initiative is a global coalition of mayors who meet on a regular basis to share their experience in the pursuit of inclusive growth in cities. Since its inception, over 100 different mayors from around the world have joined the Initiative, contributing their voice to the global debate, and making major strides in their cities toward youth empowerment, sustainable climate policy and support for SMEs. The Champion Mayors will meet at the Brussels Urban Summit on 13 June to drive change on improving housing affordability and cost of living for residents in their cities.

This blog is also available in french.

Mayor of Brussels | + posts

Philippe Close became the Mayor of Brussels in July 2017 after succeeding the former mayor who stepped down. Mayor Close was officially re-elected in October 2018. He was appointed group leader of the socialist party (PS) in the regional Parliament in 2013, having chaired the Social Affairs Committee as an elected member of Parliament of the Brussels Capital Region since 2009. In order to fully devote himself to his task as mayor, he resigned from both positions. He was previously Alderman for Staff and Tourism, and additionally Finances, following the 2006 and 2012 municipal elections respectively. In 2001 he joined the team of Freddy Thielemans, Mayor of the City of Brussels, as Head of Cabinet, having previously been the spokesperson of former prime minister Elio Di Rupo in 2000. Mayor Close has a law degree from the Université Libre de Bruxelles.