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 as an alderman for a medium-sized city in the Netherlands, what can you contribute to that? What is the impact of climate measures at a local level? Rik Thijs, alderman for climate & energy in Eindhoven, shares his dilemmas, choices, and his ambitions with us once every month. 

These are bizarre times. Prime Minister Rutte’s press conferences show that we still have to deal with the Corona crisis for a long time to come. Who would have thought that when we uncorked the champagne on 1 January 2020. A few months later, not only our country but the whole world is in a completely different state. The care heroes are ready day and night at the IC’s and teachers have switched their teaching methods within a few weeks. Entrepreneurs have been forced to close down their businesses, from pubs to hairdressing salons. Working from home is the new norm, and very sadly, funeral branches are working overtime.

As alderman for climate and energy, my work continues digitally. As councilors for the city of Eindhoven, we make decisions for the city to help vulnerable people and entrepreneurs. I am well aware that I have the luxury of having a nice office at home and my boyfriend can work downstairs in the meantime, or vice versa when one of us is tired of sitting on a kitchen chair. We have no children and no financial worries. At times like that, I think of all those people who have been hit hard by the Corona crisis, financially or personally.

I also see points of light, but these points of light I find difficult to give a place. Nature is taking back its place, people are walking in the forests for relaxation, there is crystal clear water in Venice, the sky seems brighter and animals show themselves again in our inner cities. This raises more and more the question to me what kind of new economy we are going to have, and what role sustainability will play in it. Are we ready for an economy in which we revalue local initiatives? Is now the right time for the municipality to start investing in order to boost the local economy? And if so, should we opt for investments that contribute to the issues of a climate-neutral and green Eindhoven? The ‘normal’ is gone, and what is the new normal?

These are all questions that are being asked more and more often, but in which I personally also find it difficult to determine when we can think this out loud. IC’s are still full of patients fighting for their lives. Restaurant owners want to know when they can open again, residents of care institutions want to know when they will see their children again. I sympathize with them, but at the same time, I want to think about the future of the city. Hopefully a more sustainable city.

So it’s a search. As an alderman, at least in this time of Corona, I will continue to talk to as many sustainable partners as possible, and hopefully, they will also talk to each other. Especially in times like these, it is good to find each other, to inspire each other and already look for the future.

Take good care of yourself and of each other!