Mechelen’s meeting of minds - zero emissions & data

15 February 2023 - Published by Deirdre Buist
Meanwhile in Mechelen, the Zero Emissions Working Group came together once again on 7th February. During this meeting of minds, motivated stakeholders and co-signatories of the city’s covenant for sustainable logistics discussed in depth the city’s ambitions, strategy and current state of affairs in terms of green sustainable logistics.

An overall Flemish framework is currently being designed  for more sustainable urban logistics. During this most recent meeting, a representative of the Flemish Department of Mobility and Public Works presented the process and current progress on this subject. At the moment, results from earlier studies are being analyzed while a series of pilot projects are also being initiated with a view to forming transparent and uniform policy.  

Theory – the framework

Case studies on zero-emission urban distribution in numerous ‘lighthouse’ cities form the learning basis for all urban centres.  This preparatory research offers insight into how the distribution flows can be run and where these can be optimized. Following an analysis of how to upscale to a zero-emission fleet, final results should lead to a future-proof perspective with various levels of ambition –supported by policies to ensure these ambitions are attained.

Practice – pilot projects

Testing these urban logistic theories in practice is of great importance.  Cities, municipalities and local businesses have the opportunity to implement their great  ideas in a range of pilot projects. Within the context of SURFLOGH, Mechelen has tested many green alternatives for freight delivery in the city centre, including hubs, lockers, small electric vehicle sharing schemes and more. Besides inspiring other partners in the consortium,  these research results serve as input for a framework agreement created by the Flemish government in close cooperation with municipalities and the logistics sector.

The Covenant

On signing the covenant in Mechelen, stakeholders agreed that data would  provide more insight into the proposed ambition:

“In line with their zero emissions goals for 2030, the City of Mechelen will undertake the  transition, allowing for the technical progression and availability of zero-emission vehicles:

  • 2023: 20% of deliveries with zero-emission vehicles
  • 2023: 50% of deliveries with zero-emission vehicles
  • 2030: 100% of deliveries with zero-emission vehicles.”

However, data providing the right insights is not yet forthcoming, which leads to a number of questions:

  • Which data gives the best indication of what we need?
  • How can we collect this data?
  • How far do the participating logistic parties want to go in terms of sharing data?


Joris Beckers, Professor of Economic Geography & City logistics at Antwerp University, presents facts and figures to the ZE Working Group

Data, CO2 calculation, conditions

Facilitated by Stefan Bottu of VIL (Flanders Innovation Cluster for Logistics ) and Joris Beckers, Antwerp University,   the group were set to work to clarify their thoughts on data and envision an attainable approach. The highly interactive session revolved around two main issues:

  • The specific data needed to calculate CO2 reduction and illustrate a lower impact from the logistics sector in urban environments.
  • The terms on which  logistics players freely contribute data to the city for this purpose.

While conclusions and next steps have yet to be formulated, it was encouraging to see how all parties actively contributed – without reticence  for the sensitivities surrounding data sharing.

We'll keep you updated on developments!

Top photo: Presenting the Flemish Zero-Emissions Framework  to the ZE Working Group