The Province of Luxembourg meets the Province of Limburg in Belgium

The Province of Luxembourg meets the Province of Limburg in Belgium
Published by Jade Charouk on 01.09.2012

01/09/2012 - Hasselt. On Wednesday, January the 9th, a delegation from the province of Luxembourg came to Hasselt in order to meet with their counterparts from Limburg. The fruitful exchange was articulated around one central theme: the challenges of an ambitous energy  policy

The meeting had been eagerly anticipated for some time. Thérèse Mathy, provincial representative whose area of competence now includes the Sustainable Energy and Development Field, expressed her wish to draw inspiration from the ambitious energy policy carried out by the province of Limburg. For this purpose, she went to Hasselt, accompanied by a team representing the Cell for Sustainable Development for the Province in order to meet her counterpart from Limburg, provincial representative Ludwig Vandenhove and his team, and exchange their respective experiences. The two provinces, Walloon and Flemish, indeed have a lot in common; both count 44 municipalities and both have decided to commit to an energy plan that implicates the elected municipal representatives.

A strong and adventurous commitment, followed by a scientific study

It is safe to say that the province of Limburg is a pioneer in this field. Under the guidance of its governor, the province set itself the ambitious goal to become neutral around 2020. At first, a compelling and audacious declaration of intention enabled to initiate the process. A scientific study was then led to collect accurate data from its 44 municipalities that could be used to determine how to reach the fixed goal.

A climate Parliament. WOW!!

A Parliament for the climate was also created to this end. It includes 4 groups of key actors: the companies, the municipalities, the residents and the provincial government. The purpose of such a measure is to bring together in a symbolic Parliament all the participants that wish to contribute to the process.
In order to participate, one only needs to sign a charter and commit to attending the scheduled meetings. As a result, every year, trade unions, employers, universities, associations, federations, companies and administrations get together in a participatory forum to discuss and exchange their opinions, while reviewing their contribution to the ongoing process.

The involvement of the participants

There are 4 main key actors identified: Compagnies, Citizens, Municaplities and the Provincial administration.

The provincial administration sets the tone and shows the example by taking actions affective on its own heritage.
Companies regularly get together around working groups focusing on crucial themes such as sustainable energies, sustainable buildings, mobility, nature and agriculture.
The municipalities, main target of the whole procedure, are federated within  the Covenant of Mayors. They receive a specific support service (see below)
The citizens are regularly informed through a vast communication campaign.

The involvement of the municipalities in the Covenant of Mayors

The involvement of the Limburger municipalities within the Covenant of Mayors has evolved gradually over a few months. The personal commitment of the provincial representative and information sessions on the support service offered by the province proved to be necessary in order to convince all the municipalities to join the effort. 'It seemed that a decisive factor was the quality of the proposal made to the municipalities', underlines M. Johan Vandenbrood, head of the energy service for the province of Limburg. The idea is to provide the municipalities with an offer that they cannot refuse, while keeping the civil servants workload as low as possible.

The service proposal

The service of the province of Limburg is based on a provincial CO2 study led early on in the process, on new tools designed to help make decisions regarding the assessment of sustainable potentials and energy savings, on quantitative indicators for the follow-up, as well as on a priority actions model. These tools were used by an external partner who, for each municipality, spent 3 days onsite. One day was dedicated to the overall explanation of the service and the establishment of the local organization, the second was devoted to providing help in realizing the CO2 potential based on the general CO2 study and on identification tools for renewable sources and energy savings. The third day focused on achieving the selected action measures based on the generic model of priority measure.
All the above services were provided free-of-charge to the participating municipalities, hence making it an offer impossible to refuse.

Sharing experience and enthusiasm

Driven by the enthusiasm of representative Thérèse Mathy, the Province of Luxembourg has also expressed its wish to go down the same road. Thirteen municipalities, ready to set up a plan of action coherent with the demands of the overall process, have already been contacted. Therefore, it is fair to say that the day ended up being a learning experience. “We came back from Hasselt full of ideas”, stresses Thérèse Mathy. “We will get down to work fully aware that this is only the beginning and feeling really small in comparison to the impressive work already accomplished in Limburg. However, we are very enthusiastic to make progress in this direction!”.