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Starting to Explore Futures with a Prospective Diagnosis

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

With a vision set towards 2050, the project aims to outline just transition scenarios for the Brussels-Capital Region (BCR), using a prospective approach. COGITO’s prospective approach includes three main phases: the development of the prospective diagnosis, the construction and analysis of the scenarios, and the formulations of policy recommendations and orientations. In this blog post, we unpack the methodology for the development of the prospective diagnosis, giving an overview of each step of the process - which are further detailed in our first methodological note.


Approach to identify the factors influencing environmental inequalities in BCR.


1. Overview of the Prospective Approach:

At its heart, COGITO seeks to navigate two transitions for BCR: achieving carbon neutrality in transport and housing, and moving towards climate resilience through urban greening. Using tools and techniques inspired by the French school of prospective, the approach employs both contrasted explorative and normative scenarios. The journey begins with defining the prospective question.


2. Definition of the Prospective Question:

Formulating the prospective question is a challenge given the fluid nature of "Just transition." To navigate this, COGITO employs the environmental justice framework, initially designed to address pollution inequalities but now covering broader environmental and social disparities. This framework emphasizes distributive, procedural, and recognition justice. COGITO will also keep central questions of spatial justice in order to understand uneven spatial evolutions of environmental inequalities across the region. Aiming to understand and address environmental inequalities that eventually manifest as social injustices, the project poses an essential question: "What are the possible futures of environmental inequalities in BCR at horizon 2050?"


3. Definition of the Prospective System:

A holistic study requires examining the diverse dimensions that makeup environmental inequalities. After thorough documentary analysis (including our review of "just" and "sustainable" city visions) and expert interviews detailing BCR's environmental justice landscape since 1990, a list of influential factors will be prepared. These factors are then structured into a system of variables and domains, offering a structured approach to the investigation.


4. Prospective Analysis of the Variables:

For each identified variable, a comprehensive "prospective analysis dossier" will be created. This dossier, meant to assist scenario development, covers the variable's past trends, current status, and potential future trajectories. To ensure consistency and accuracy, a workshop with project-involved actors and experts will be convened post dossier completion.


5. Spatial Analysis of the Variables:

A critical component of understanding environmental inequalities is discerning their spatial distribution. Through mapping, COGITO intends to pinpoint areas that bear the brunt of compounded injustices, thereby recognizing the most affected communities and their environments. The methodology strives to provide a comprehensive view of distributive, recognition, and participatory injustices. This spatial portrayal will be a foundation for depicting how future scenarios might address or further the prevailing spatial inequalities.


In this way, through a combination of prospective, spatial and systemic analyses, COGITO seeks to light the paths for a transition for a just and sustainable Brussels-Capital Region.

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