The spatial dimension of the Flemish Covenant of Mayors: A comparative spatial analysis on the transition towards energy neutral municipalities

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Previous research has proven the necessity of an energy transition. More and more local visions on an energy neutral future are being adopted, powered by targets on different policy levels (UN, EU, national and local) and the Covenant of Mayors initiative in Europe. These visions are flanked by a series of concrete actions that should be established by either 2020 or 2030. A comparative analysis of the Sustainable Energy Action Plans (SEAP), submitted within the framework of the Covenant of Mayors, however shows that although the ambitions within these visions are frequently high when setting long term targets for an energy neutral future in 2050, actions on the short term often focus on low-hanging fruit. While these quick wins are necessary towards an energy neutral future, they will not be enough to create a real transition. There seems to be a missing link between ambitious visions and concrete actions. This paper will argue that territorial actions are needed to reach the energy goals and fill in the gap between those first, successful, but relatively easy actions and a full-blown energy transition. Moreover, the general awareness of the importance of spatial planning, of integrating energy goals into every spatial project and connecting different scale levels is often missing. Reducing energy, increasing energy efficiency and increasing renewable energy can all be linked with territorial factors. Furthermore, governance, going beyond government and including private and civil society actors is needed.
Spatial Development, Energy Transition, Governance, Mitigation