News & Events

États Généraux de l’air de Bruxelles

25 April 2019 , 25-27 April 2019

The Concept

The first Etats Generaux de l’Air de Bruxelles is an event combining citizens’ day, an international symposium, and a hackathon, with the objective of bringing together the different actors that are striving for a cleaner air, provide a platform for dialogue and collaboration, and discuss visions and solutions to realise a healthier city.

The citizens’ day, the international symposium, and the hackathon are likely to attract different audiences and to produce different discourses: bringing them together aims precisely to promote multiple learning loops, virtuous cycles of collaboration, and mutual empowering. The underlying concept, though, is to blur the boundaries between these through a series of activities that allow to break walls and offer possibilities of fruitful interactions.

Overall, the initiative will:

  • Raise awareness about the air pollution problem, the impact on health and on the environment, the drivers and the geographic distribution, the potential and the limits of existing solutions.
  • Bridge the gap between science & practice, by enhancing citizens’ and practitioners’ understanding of the science of air pollution, its potential and its limitation and uncertainties, and by providing the scientific community with an opportunity to hear and engage with societal concerns and questions
  • Contribute to the democratic process by empowering citizens through science, and by providing a venue for discussion and deliberation about their vision for a healthier and more liveable city.

Cosmopolis VUB and BRAL are taking the lead in the overall organisation of the event. Different institutional partners have already confirmed their commitment in the organisation of /participation in the different activities. Institutions, movements, NGOs and other stakeholders can get in touch, should they be interested in working with us.

The Context

“Air is in the air”. All over the world, awareness of air pollution as a serious matter of concern is growing. This is prominent in the rise of citizen groups claiming their right to clean air, the increasing number of newspaper articles on the subject, and the growing mobilization across broad ranges of society. Air quality policies are also at a turning point. At the same time, air pollution is academically taken up more widely and consistently, with an increasing amount of scholarship looking into the issue from a wide variety of disciplines ranging from environmental science, to public health, urban governance, law, mobility & transport… The growing number of citizen science projects, living labs, crowd-sensing and other similar initiatives contributes to blurring the boundaries between “citizens” and “experts”. This shows the potential of dialogue and collaboration among different actors, but also represents a step towards transcending these categories and making place for promising new ways of thinking about research, action and citizenship. Overall, there is a sense of urgency, rooted in state-of-the-art knowledge about the risks of exposure, the apparent inadequacy of the current legal framework, policy and infrastructural solutions, and the -sometimes distorted- way information on air pollution is collected and disseminated.

In Brussels too, air pollution is becoming more and more prominent in the public debate. In the last few years, different groups of citizens (among other CleanAirBrussels, Bruxselair, FilterCafeFiltré, Influencair...) and civil society organisations (e.g. BRAL, Greenpeace, EUCG…) have mobilised to express their concern for a cleaner air and to demand more ambitious policies. Academia is showing leadership by conducting a number of research projects in Brussels and across the Belgium, and by establishing a network of researchers working on the topic. Regional institutions also try to tackle the issue with the launch in 2018 of the Low Emissions Zone, the review of Pollution Peak Emergency Plan, and a survey to assess the possibilities of going beyond the combustion engine. Overall, the cases where different words and perspectives (citizens, academia, administration…) have come together proved to be brilliant examples of mutual empowerment and of innovation in the context of a healthier city. Numerous Citizens Science and action research projects (e.g. expAir, AirCasting, HackAir, LuchtPijp...) have been done or are undergoing, showing their potential for awareness raising, scientific education, and knowledge co-production. During 2018, moreover, BRAL and Cosmopolis have taken the lead in facilitating an exercise of dialogue, coaching and evaluation involving political parties and citizens groups, aiming to co-construct the vision for Brussels Air in the context of the forthcoming regional elections.