Brussels not ready to deal with climate change, nature collective says

Brussels not ready to deal with climate change, nature collective says
Credit: Belga/ Virgie Lefour

Belgium's capital is badly equipped in the face of climate change, a conservation collective has warned. It is calling for an urgent halt to the destruction of nature to protect Brussels citizens.

While it feels like Belgium has largely been spared the heat that engulfed Europe in recent months, it has experienced two heatwaves, including an unusually late one over the last week. Indeed, this summer was the hottest in 30 years.

Due to the so-called "urban heat island effect," the warmth is much more noticeable in Brussels than in surrounding rural areas as it has less greenery and more buildings than the periphery of the city, resulting in the heat being trapped rather than dispersed.

The Brussels-Capital Region has repeatedly announced it is working to prepare the capital for future challenges posed by global warming by planting trees in concrete spaces, which also offer shade, and ensuring a certain percentage of public roads is soil-based to better manage rainwater.

Trees provide shade when it is hot but also help evaporate the heat in cities. Credit: Lauren Walker/ The Brussels Times

However, the environmental collective We Are Nature.Brussels has argued that, at the same time, the region's spatial planning policy is gradually, methodically and continuously destroying existing natural areas.

"Everyone can now feel that, in the face of climate upheaval, the city is vulnerable and its inhabitants, particularly those in precarious situations, are at risk. Brussels is not ready to deal with climate change," it said.

Essential assets

In mid-June, the collective gave the Brussels government formal notice to decide on a halt to the destruction of the region's nature. It has repeatedly argued that green spaces are crucial to protect the city against climate change.

"These are essential assets if we are to adapt to the new climate regime, particularly to cope with the effects of urban heat islands and flooding. This gradual destruction, by nibbling away, is incompatible with the Region's commitments and obligations," it stated. "Strong and urgent decisions must be taken, democratically, to adapt the city, with priority given to its densest neighbourhoods."

A response is expected to be given by the government by 15 September. The organisation warned that it will be taking legal action and intensify the mobilisation supported by citizens' associations and collectives if this call continues to fall on deaf ears.

"We hope that the government will rise to the challenge and decide to stop destroying nature in Europe's capital now. From now on, we must collectively build a liveable city, with nature, not against it," the collective concluded.

The Regional Planning Bureau ( has argued in the past that it aims to "strike a balance" between meeting the socio-economic needs of citizens and developing an environmentally sustainable city.  The region, meanwhile, has stressed that there is a tension around building, centred on whether to prioritise preserving nature or providing housing for residents.

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