Cocreating a Climate-Neutral Leuven: Developing and Implementing Leuven 2030’s Roadmap
Organisation : Leuven 2030 , Belgium

By harnessing the power of its network, Leuven 2030 has (1) created a comprehensive Roadmap to a carbon-neutral future, (2) united stakeholders behind it, and (3) developed an innovative governance model to begin to implement it. The Roadmap, wide in its scope and high in ambition, has accelerated momentum for climate action and signals a new, mature phase in Leuven’s push for carbon neutrality.

EU Green Deal Policy Areas Addressed
Climate actionClean energy
Pathways followed
  • Involve citizens through participatory implementation
  • Encourage local private and civic engagement
  • Promote social innovation supporting inclusion
  • Apply innovative financing approaches
  • Pursue a shift towards a circular economy

Like other cities, Leuven faces the challenge of climate change. Leuven first engaged with the issue in 1998, through Platform Local Agenda 21 and Network Sustainable Leuven: early partnerships that gave rise to the city’s ambition, stated in 2010, to become carbon-neutral (defined as cutting emissions by at least 80% by 2050). In 2011, Leuven signed the Covenant of Mayors. In 2013, the city cofounded Leuven 2030, a broad, multi-stakeholder network dedicated to achieving carbon neutrality through the joint action of local government, companies, knowledge institutions, civil society, and citizens. The network’s efforts did not go unnoticed: in 2018, the European Commission awarded Leuven the European Green Leaf title, recognizing it as one of Europe’s greenest cities. Since its founding, Leuven 2030 has become the main driver of Leuven’s push for carbon neutrality, and constantly seeks to keep the level of ambition high.

In Action

In 2018, Leuven 2030 set out to create a roadmap: a document that would list and put on a timeline all the actions needed to achieve carbon neutrality. Harnessing the power of its network, it mobilized over 60 local experts (mostly from the city’s university, KU Leuven, but also city staff and experts from the private sector) to participate in multiple expert sessions covering a wide range of topics. Alongside BUUR, a local urban-design agency, Leuven 2030 then processed the collected input and crafted it into a coherent and readable 177-page document: the Roadmap.

The Roadmap is organized into 13 separate programmes, covering 10 thematic areas (energy, mobility, consumption,…) and three cross-cutting ones: governance and financing; engagement and social justice; and data and monitoring. Each programme in turn is organized into multiple project clusters focusing on specific parts of the programme challenge.

The Roadmap is highly ambitious, centering the proposed actions on what needs to be done rather than on what can be done. And it, for the first time ever, brings into view the full scope of the challenge of achieving carbon neutrality in Leuven.

Once the Roadmap was completed, Leuven 2030 sought to secure the buy-in of key stakeholders. It succeeded. When the Roadmap was presented at our ‘Road to 2050’ conference, it bore the signatures of 15 key stakeholders – including the city, KU Leuven, and the Chamber of Commerce – indicating their endorsement.

Devising a strategy for implementation proved more difficult. The Roadmap presented us with a huge challenge, but we had relatively few resources to tackle it with. Again harnessing the power of our network, we set out to find at least 13 programme coordinators, each charged with implementing one of the Roadmap’s 13 programmes. Since we mostly lack the resources to recruit new personnel, we primarily targeted people and organizations whose core business already aligns closely with the work put forth in the Roadmap, and who were willing to devote at least one day a week to implementing it. Sixteen people, coming from a diverse set of public and private organizations, agreed to take on the challenge. Starting in September, they will lead the implementation of the Roadmap.

Katrien Rycken, coordinator of Leuven 2030: “To safeguard our wellbeing and quality of life, we must rapidly and dramatically decrease Leuven’s carbon emissions. The Roadmap is a call to action to achieve a carbon-neutral future.”


The Roadmap provides a clear vision for the future, and a coherent framework for accelerated action, that key local stakeholders have united behind. It’s comprehensive, including not only actions intended for the city government, but also actions for private and other public actors: it thus involves the entire Leuven community in the process of tackling climate change.

A few achievements stand out:

  • Key parts of the Roadmap were integrated into the city’s policy plan 2019-2025. Leuven 2030 advocated for the Roadmap during the plan-making process and participated in multiple discussions with city officials, including the mayor and the deputy mayor, who were quick to lend their support to the document.
  • Thanks to creative governance, Leuven 2030 was able to find 16 individuals to put their shoulders behind the implementation of the Roadmap. This additional capacity is much needed if we are to achieve real progress in implementing the Roadmap, and reach for something far beyond what our small team of 6 FTE is capable of.
  • The Roadmap generated new momentum for climate action, and ensured that it remain high on the local agenda.

David Dessers, deputy mayor in charge of sustainability and climate change: “The actions proposed in the Roadmap are necessarily ambitious. To meet its climate targets, Leuven needs to triple its rate of residential retrofitting, double the use of bicycles and public transport, and increase its production of solar power tenfold. We are committed to helping achieve that.”


The biggest impact of the Roadmap will be accelerated action towards achieving carbon neutrality. The Roadmap sets clear targets for 2025, 2035 and 2050. By putting dedicated people in charge of meeting those targets, our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions will be structurally reinforced, and achieve a greater impact.

The impact will be measured through the use of a comprehensive monitoring framework. Such a framework will be set up as part of Programme 13 of the Roadmap, which focuses on collecting data and monitoring progress. Monitoring will occur on two levels: on the one hand, overall carbon emissions will be monitored (or rather, will continue to be monitored, as we already do this); on the other, progress will be monitored at the programme and project level.

Programme 13 is one of the three cross-cutting programmes, and therefore cuts across all parts of the Roadmap. Monitoring will thus cover energy (e.g. rate of retrofitting, production of renewable energy,…), mobility (e.g. use of public transport, number of bicycle parking spaces,…), nature-based solutions, consumption, and so on.

Special care will be taken to develop a framework and methodology that is consistent across all action areas.

Programme 13 will be led by KU Leuven.

Challenges and lessons learned

We have found that a multi-stakeholder approach is vital for tackling climate change at the urban level. The importance of joining local stakeholders in a network cannot be overstated. It is only thanks to having built up a strong, tight-knit network that Leuven 2030 was able to pool the expertise needed for creating the Roadmap, secure the support of 15 key stakeholders, and enlist 16 programme coordinators to support implementation.



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