At the end of 2020, Mechelen’s citizens presented their City Council with the “Handvest voor natuur en open ruimte” (“Charter for Nature and Open Space”). This charter is an initiative by local associations and schools, which calls on Mechelen’s officials to step up their efforts to preserve and create green spaces around the city.  

The green initiative didn’t fall on deaf ears. Mechelen has been actively working to ‘green’ its city over the past few years. In 2020, the city even won the European Green Leaf Award, which recognises commitment to better environmental outcomes, with a particular focus on efforts that generate green growth and new jobs. The city is currently drawing up a new spatial policy plan and a housing plan. In keeping with Mechelen’s climate ambitions, both of these plans place a heavy emphasis on data insights. They will specifically measure and monitor air quality and drought to plan ahead smartly. 

Other aspects of Mechelen’s climate mitigation and adaptation measures are also data-driven. Its REMOVE project, for instance, is piloting innovative tools and methods to turn Mechelen into a so-called sponge city. In such a city, rainwater is managed more efficiently by replacing concrete with more permeable surfaces and greenery. As a result, Mechelen will be both less likely to flood and better equipped to handle floods. 

Mechelen City Council therefore welcomed the charter’s call for greater involvement of citizens, associations, and external experts in the city’s plans and expressed enthusiasm at seeing its citizens engage with the priority policy area. The city looks forward to engaging in productive dialogue with the wider community in 2021 and beyond, to make Mechelen greener and more eco-friendly together.