Launched in 2008 as the Agenda 21, the City of Brussels now has a Public Welfare Climate Plan in place that advances three main inter-related themes for greening the capital of Belgium (and of the European Union) with more trees, more vegetables and more green paths.
“By joining Cities4Forests, Brussels aims to underline the essential role of cities around the world in leading the efforts against global warming.”
Mayor of Brussels, Belgium
INNER & NEARBY FORESTS
Urban Forests - a participative public exercise
Each year since 2013, the City of Brussels organizes a participative public tree-planting exercise with residents that are invited to take part in embellishing a new segment of the city with an urban forest. Indeed, Brussels is in the process of creating a vast and dense forest of around 40 hectares in the area of Neder-Over-Heembeek. This tree plantation aims to preserve and develop greater biodiversity for Brussels with all the associated natural benefits. The plants and trees are indigenous and chosen for the humid, compact soil of Belgium. The urban forest includes an experimental project, led in partnership with the Instituut voor Natuur-en Bosonderzoek, to reintroduce the black poplar which has been disappearing in Belgium.
Street Vegetables - plant your own garden
Brussels now permits its residents to exploit balcony ledges, rooftops and those little square spaces around sidewalk trees to plant vegetables or flowers or herbs or other greenery. The effect on reducing carbon emissions are minimal but the positive impact on social cohesion are remarkable in ameliorating the well-being of citizens. Residents are also sensitized to the importance of preserving and developing natural solutions; and we all learn more about biodiversity and vegetables this way too.
Green Paths - interconnecting the city
The City of Brussels has been developing a network of footpaths that link the different green spaces around the urban area with the peri-urban territories. These itineraries include paths for walkers, hikers, runners and bikers. You need a map to follow the different linkages between existing spaces which will someday become self-evident as they are used more. A first zone of rehabilitation is being developed at Haren before spreading out to other areas. Residents and visitors will be made aware of the possibilities to reconnect with nature with communication campaigns and publications.
The Baby Boom - a first initiative of its kind
The City of Brussels has pledged to plant a tree for each of the first 3,000 babies born in the city each year. Dubbed the Baby Boom Initiative, two of the city’s new ‘Ecolo’ (environmental political group) councillors elected in November 2018 are behind the plan, which has been backed by the city council with an annual budget of €25,000. The trees will not be planted in Belgium, but in Africa or South America – and not before the end of 2019 or early 2020.
A forest relict in Brussels
The Sonian Forest to the south-east of Brussels is dominated by cathedral beech trees and their related biodiversity. Due to the extraordinary evolution of this beech tree ecosystem since the Ice Age, in 2017 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although it is a primeval forest relict, humans have been using it for more than 5,000 years: in the Neolithic Age, we first settled there, then during the Roman Empire, it was part of the Silvia Carbonia (the “charcoal forest”) that extended from the shores of the Rhine to the North Sea, and in the early Middle Ages, the Sonian Forest served as a hunting ground. In later centuries, it was plundered by the local lords for the timber. In the 18th century, the Austrian landscape architect, Joachim Zinner, reforested it with what would become known as the ‘majestic cathedral beech trees’ that can be taller than 50 meters and older than 200 years. Today, the Sonian Forest covers more than 4,000 hectares, but it faces new hazards: air and water pollution, visitor pressure, urbanization and, above all, climate change. We must preserve and protect it – the trees are not just a forest, they are part of our history.
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