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Participation is the key to a climate-neutral Leuven

As one of the 112 European mission cities, Leuven is striving for a climate-neutral status by 2030. To achieve this, it has developed a Climate Contract with 10 clear guidelines. What sets it apart is the engagement of various partners from the local Leuven ecosystem. Sweco has also signed the Climate Contract and is contributing its expertise to shape the ambitions.

visual of the Leuven 2030 Climate Neutral project, subproject marketplace as energy source. Illustration of the Leuven marketplace with a cross-section of the underground with energy ducts.

The central Market Place as energy source for the town of Leuven – Leuvens Klimaatcontract, i.o.v. Stad Leuven en Leuven 2030

Globally, cities consume over half of all energy and account for 70% of CO2 emissions [1]. In the European Union, about three-quarters of the population lives in cities, making them ideal for leading the transition to a sustainable society. That’s why Europe launched the mission ‘100 Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities by 2030’ in 2022: 112 cities are rising to the challenge of increasing their climate ambitions and efforts. They are paving the way and seeking solutions to overcome barriers, to demonstrate that it can be done.

Sweco has signed the Climate Contract as a committed partner and is providing its expertise to make the transition a reality.

Miechel De Paep, specialist Climate Adaptation

A clear and budgeted action plan

Leuven responded to the call and was selected in the spring of 2022 based on its existing knowledge, innovative initiatives in climate, economy, social policy, and its collaborative partnerships with knowledge institutions, businesses, and residents.

The mission city label comes with three requirements from Europe:

–  An action plan for climate neutrality by 2030,
–  Commitments from partners to implement the actions,
–  A financial model to fund these actions.

The Leuven Climate Contract provides answers to these requirements.

An analysis of Leuven’s CO2 emissions identified priority emission areas and barriers to a faster transition. Breakthrough projects, a total of 86, offer solutions to these barriers. Partners are committed to realizing each of these projects. An investment strategy concretizes the financial resources, logic, and leverage needed to finance the breakthrough projects and the transition in Leuven.

Sweco has signed the Climate Contract as a committed partner and is providing its expertise to make the transition a reality. Our experts supported Leuven in selecting and technically developing the breakthrough projects, analyzing the climate impact, and calculating the CO2 impact. Additionally, Sweco has collaborated in collecting commitments and calculating costs and co-benefits where possible.

Towards an 80% reduction of CO2

By 2030, Leuven aims to reduce its annual CO2 emissions to 79,000 tons, which is an 80% reduction compared to the 2019 emissions of 457,000 tons.

The remaining emissions will be addressed through increased greenery – currently accounting for 12,000 tons of CO2 storage per year – and innovative new technologies in the industry and transport sectors.

As an important first step, the 86 breakthrough projects reduce emissions with roughly 10%. At the same time, these breakthroughs play an important part in removing barriers, testing innovations or as exemplary projects. This opens up the way for upscaling and replication, maximizing the impact to a reduction of 80%.

Financial and societal return

In terms of returns, both financial and societal, a portfolio model in future will enable different types of investors to invest in multiple breakthrough projects simultaneously. Financial returns and societal benefits go hand in hand. Surpluses are reinvested, allowing for a mix of financially viable and less viable projects while guaranteeing societal returns in the short and long term.

Moreover, this comprehensive financing model also takes into account the ‘cost of inaction’ to the extent possible. The longer we delay taking action, the higher the costs of the climate transition will be.

Sweco looks forward to continuing the journey with the City of Leuven, Leuven2030, and the other partners in the Leuven ecosystem.