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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.

Like many others, I had the hope that, in 2021, we would step into a new world. A world where we would have the corona pandemic under control, we would once again be allowed to do anything, and much of the population would be vaccinated. Unfortunately, the past two months have shown us that it is not over yet. The third corona wave in the Netherlands is a fact.

Despite having the luxury of a nice workplace at home, no children to teach at home, and loved ones who are all healthy, I too am done with it. Yet, it is good to highlight a positive side as well. I get that feeling from the power and cooperation that has emerged around the development of the various vaccines. This shows that when countries join forces, put billions together and pursue a common goal worldwide, we can quickly take very big steps.

My wish is that we learn from this for the years to come when hopefully corona will increasingly fade into the background. What if we also started to feel and articulate this shared commitment and urgency to address climate change? No palaver or discussion about the exact objective, no reinventing the wheel individually, and, most importantly, putting society’s interests first.

As an alderman who works on the energy transition and combating climate change on a daily basis, I sometimes miss the sense of urgency and the joint approach. The municipality is pre-eminently the place where we should be working with our residents on greening and making our neighbourhoods natural gas-free. For the latter, providing insight into the social, but also financial effects per neighbourhood, or even per inhabitant, is crucial in our approach, and for gaining support.

The question is how we will make the connection between the European green deal, the national climate agreement, the province’s policy, and our residents. With a common sense of urgency, the sharing of knowledge, and the pooling of resources, we should be able to make significant steps forward in the context of climate change in the coming years. Just like the power of the approach to the coronavirus.

Yes, the third wave is a fact, but I also see another wave ahead of us. It starts small, but with the right forces and directions, it can grow into a big green wave that goes around the world, able to stop climate change. This wave will not only benefit us now but a whole future generation.