Transition Region Genk
The city of Genk is located in the province of Limburg which is one of the five provinces of Flanders (Belgium). Flanders, situated in the north-western part of Belgium, is one of the most densely populated regions in Europe with on average 470 inhabitants per square kilometer (Eurostat). The province of Limburg has set itself a challenging ambition: to become a carbon neutral province and has inspired all 44 municipalities to sign the Covenant of Mayors protocol and develop pathways of emission reduction.
The city of Genk, located on the Albert Canal, is a cultural melting pot – no less than 80 different nationalities live together on the foundations of a rich mining past. Bridging old and new, a working class town with a knowledge-based economy and it’s green and industrial capital, have inspired the city’s slogan of “Harmony in contrast, that is what it is all about”. Some of the former coal mines for instance, have been redesigned into modern innovation hubs housing many young and innovative enterprises and businesses while others are being redesigned into a science – business park focusing on cleantech and sustainability. Although one of the smaller Flemish cities in size, Genk was the third largest industrial city in Flanders and is surrounded by a vast amount of green capital – it is the greenest city of Flanders. The city of Genk is a beautiful example of where the past meets the future: old mining sites are being converted into new innovation incubators catalyzing our cultural, digital and cleantech revolution with emphasis on citizen empowerment across the many nationalities. But Genk also needs to overcome the typical economic challenges of this time with the closure of one of its largest employers, Ford Genk. The cultural diversity, the participatory approach of the local government, the combination of old and new, the city’s ambitions to become smart and climate friendly makes this city especially interesting to investigate what is needed to accelerate the transition to sustainability.
Transition Initiatives of interests
VELT Genk is the local branch of the VELT association. VELT promotes an eco-friendly lifestyle and gardening style based on respect for nature. By cooperation, sensitization and publication it aims to promote a sustainable life style in Flanders. VELT has 14.000 members and 100 local divisions. VELT Genk collaborates with local allotment garden initiatives to produce food in a sustainable way.
AFF is a local music festival that integrates sustainability in the heart of their activities. They promote sustainability at the festival through recycling and re-use, have an entrance fee of 3 empty batteries or 3€ that they donate to the local division of Natuurpunt, an environmental organization, to sponsor purchase and maintenance of local nature reserves.
After the elections of 2012, the new city council decided to more actively engage and involve its citizens in the policy preparation and planning activities. Using the motto ‘Making the city together’, the government organized a large citizen brainstorm, called G360 to inspire the policy plan of the city for the coming years. The citizen brainstorm involved approx 450 local people and took place in March 2013 with a feedback round in October. More than 2000 ideas were collected on how to make the city of Genk a desirable city for the future. The approach proved to be very fruitful and has been repeated in 2014.