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The fourth (and final) in our series of transnational workshops, events and discussions took place virtually in Ghent, Belgium, on 2 and 3 February 2021.

What’s the problem?

Increased flooding, more powerful storms, more intense droughts, rising sea levels and heatwaves are all impacts of the climate changes which will affect our lives, and which demand our response. How must our culture adapt, be part of making a society that is responding to our changing present, and create a positive future?

What’s the context?

Ghent (Gent) is Belgium’s largest municipality outside of Brussels, with evidence that humans have inhabited the region since the Stone Age (3.4 million years ago). Located in East Flanders, the city has a rich industrial textile history, but has undergone significant post-industrial regeneration in the latter 20th Century, becoming known for its many environment sustainability initiatives toward becoming a climate neutral city and is a member of the Covenant of Mayors and Mayors Adapt initiative. 

The city region is highly urbanised around a preserved medieval centre, with non-permeable infrastructure such as streets and squares exacerbating our changing climate: paved spaces absorb and store heat, meaning the city centre can be up 3-8°C warmer than surrounding areas – even at night. Climate change is also leading to more frequent and heavier rainfall, which runs off paved areas into sewers and waterways unable to cope with the increased volume of water. Rivers which meet in the region and historic canals are becoming important tools in cooling the city.

With a number of universities and educational institutions, Ghent has become a centre of cultural learning, with 12% of all students studying creative or cultural sector courses. The city was recognised as a UNESCO City of Music in 2009, and is known for its museums, galleries and religious art history – including the Ghent Altarpiece (The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by the Van Eyck brothers).

What happened at the workshop?

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and associated travel and event restrictions, the workshop took place online. International project partners, local arts and cultural organisations, and those working to shape how the Ghent city region will adapt to climate change met over two days for a series of presentations, discussions and Q&A to share their knowledge and experiences.