H.E. Pascal Smet, Secretary of State for the Brussels-Capital Region, spoke last Friday at a net-positive cities event in London jointly organised by hub.brussels and the Urban Land Institute (ULI) addressing over 120 businesses and experts, and stated that, “We have to transform our cities into zero-net cities and that’s not going to be too easy. There are two domains in which we have to act, in the mobility issue and the building issue.”
“We have an opportunity to make our cities a better place to live […] The public and the private sector have to work together in order to build these better cities.”
Welcoming guests to the event, Chair of the Urban Land Institute of Belgium and Luxembourg, Gabriel Uzgen, warned, “We will soon reach critical thresholds [of greenhouse gas emissions], consequences which we cannot reverse.”
He went on to say that, “We need to reconceive our buildings and redesign them to be more sustainable. Because of the scale of these issues, it is critical that city officials and businesses work together to achieve this change.
“There is no longer time for procrastination or asking questions. It’s time for action. We need to work together to share knowledge and find solutions.”
In her keynote speech, Director of Savills Earth Advisory, Marylis Ramos, echoed his sentiment stating, “The data is clear: the direction of travel is away from fossil fuels but not everyone will admit that the train has left the station, let alone how fast that train is travelling or that it may skip some stations along the way.”
Minister Smet is visiting the UK as part of the Belgian Economic Mission, a 4-day trade and political visit presided over by HRH Princess Astrid, organised to strengthen the economic and diplomatic ties between the two countries.
The UK could benefit greatly from Belgian learnings in green architecture and construction, as Belgian policy is some years ahead in this area. Both countries hold huge potential for innovation, with 40% of the UK’s carbon emissions estimated to come from the built environment and an increasing preference in Belgium for buildings made from circular concrete or sustainable timber.
Later in the event, experts covered industry issues and trends such as:
- The potential for retrofitting homes to make them more energy efficient – Annette Simpson, Director of Development and Partnerships at Legal & General
- Wooden buildings for environmental and social benefit – Pertti Vanhanen, Managing Director of the Cromwell Property Group
- The development of flexible timber to meet changing building needs – Ana Gatóo, a PhD candidate at the Centre for Natural Material Innovation in the Department of Architecture at Cambridge
- Creating a local value chain for wood from urban forests – Stephan Kampelmann, Ecological Economist and Founder of the Sonian Wood Coop
- Reducing inequality through affordable and sustainable housing solutions – Annette Simpson, Director of Development and Partnerships at Legal & General
The Belgian Economic Mission is hosted from 9th – 12th May 2022. Belgian Ministers, HRH Princess Astrid and 406 business leaders are visiting the UK. A key international economic player, Belgium is ranked 13th in the world for both exports and imports by the World Trade Organisation in 2021. The country’s central European location matched by its prosperous ports makes it an ideal gateway for UK businesses looking to trade in Europe – it makes up 75% of the EU market (GDP) and 40% of consumers.
For more information on the Belgian Economic Mission and its upcoming events please visit belgianeconomicmission.be. For any questions or commentary from H.E. Smet, or any other speakers from the event, please contact Whitehouse Communications using the details below.