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.
Back to the climate summit in Glasgow. A lot of “wheeling and dealing” behind the scenes. Sharpening and blunting of final declarations, but especially a flaming speech by the Prime Minister of the Caribbean island of Barbados, Mia Mottley. She appealed for leadership, including her own. And that is what is needed!
I eagerly await the new Dutch coalition agreement in which hopefully the new line of leadership and ‘action, action, action’ will become clear. Not only in terms of words, but also with means. Especially for municipalities. So, as an alderman, I can really stand beside the residents in the energy transition, in order to jointly reverse climate change.
As an alderman, I am ready to get to work together with many residents, organizations, businesses, and municipal organizations. Last month the budget of the municipality of Eindhoven was adopted in which, for the first time in years, we make extra money available on a structural basis. Money, for example, to provide capacity for a municipality-wide insulation program, to close climate deals with businesses and care institutions. By almost tripling our municipal budget for climate and energy, we can get down to business. If the national government will finally be there and frees up structural money for municipalities, then we can go from ‘action’ to ‘action, action, action’.
We can then, for example, finance the ‘unprofitable top’, talk to residents district by district, and insulate on a much larger scale. The latter can be done by providing subsidies or at least by organizing joint purchasing actions. In the coming year, we will do this in 25 districts and neighborhoods, but we have more than 100 districts.
In Eindhoven, we have an established climate plan, a transition vision for heat, and a regional energy strategy. An inclusive energy transition is not a sprint or a practice run though. It’s not even a marathon, but I would say an ultra-run. My message to the national government: We are off the starting blocks, don’t let us stumble in the first 100 meters.
And if an alderman’s call does not find a hearing, hopefully, Mia Mottley’s will: “Simply put, when will leaders lead? Our people are watching, and our people are taking note. And are we really going to leave Scotland without the resolve and the ambition that is sorely needed to save lives and to save our planet? Are we so blinded and hardened that we can no longer appreciate the cries of humanity?”