The climate is changing and we are all going to notice the consequences, all over the world. There are plenty of plans to prepare for this or even to reverse the process. But what can an alderman of a medium-sized city in the Netherlands, contribute to this? What is the impact of a climate measure at a local level? Rik Thijs, alderman for climate & energy in Eindhoven, shares his dilemmas, his choices and his ambitions with us, once a month.

A challenge? Yes. Impossible? No. Six months ago, I started as alderman for climate & energy, public space & nature in Eindhoven. The biggest challenge in the coming years will be the energy transition in our city. When asked whether I, as the chairman of the GroenLinks political party, wanted to take on this new role, I convincingly said ‘yes’. At a time when the debate on climate and the environment is more lively than ever, I prefer to be at the helm myself.

As an alderman, I see that many people in this beautiful city are working on this theme. Some small-scale, such as Manon who took the initiative to create a communal garden together with local residents, supported by “Adopt a street“. Or on a larger scale: our four housing corporations that are working with conviction on the sustainability pact in which they, together with the municipality and tenants’ representatives, are taking up the opportunities surrounding the energy transition.

These actions are necessary to achieve our sustainability ambitions. Our Climate Plan for Eindhoven states that now is the time for a different way of working to achieve our ambition: 95% CO2-neutral in 2050. I believe that in this region, with all our innovative strength and way of collaborating, we must be able to find the solutions for tomorrow’s issues. If we succeed in doing so, we will also be able to make a real impact on the global climate issue.

“With all our innovative strength, we must be able to find the solutions for tomorrow’s issues”

But how are we going to do that together? In the coming year, we will be working on a Local Climate Accord, in which we will make agreements with many partners in the city in the areas of C02 reduction, climate adaptation and circularity. Agreements with a small and large impact. The many discussions I have had on this subject have shown that this approach is fortunately widely supported by knowledge institutions, the business community and our residents.

The dilemma, of course, is whether we are going fast enough. On this theme, I would allow us to go much faster than 130 km per hour (figuratively speaking). Will we stop global warming in time? And what role does a city like Eindhoven play on a global scale? Are we making the right choices? And do we dare to talk about the daily things we can pick up ourselves, or does it suddenly become very difficult? In this monthly column, I would like to take you along in the challenges as alderman for climate and energy, but certainly also in the personal dilemmas and brainteasers.

If we tackle climate change together, we can make a difference, here in Eindhoven and beyond. I am convinced of that. Recently, I was at the Energy Team of the TU Eindhoven talking about our sustainability ambitions. In the building of Innovation Space, student teams presented their solutions to the problems of today and tomorrow. Whether it was about waste, energy production or future housing, they were all hopeful about our future. For me, this means that they belong to the large group of people who want to help create an energy-neutral Eindhoven. That’s what I want, together with the city and everyone else who feels involved in this theme in one way or another – where ever you may be living. Every good idea is welcome. Because with the solutions for Eindhoven, we can ultimately help the whole world.

If you have any ideas about how we can facilitate or support you as a municipality, please let me know.

Rik Thijs

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