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The first 53 European cities were designated early this year as part of the EU’s “100 Climate Neutral and Smart Cities” mission. Eindhoven, in cooperation with Helmond, is one of them. But the subsidy from this project cannot make a big difference, Eindhoven alderman Rik Thijs wrote earlier on Innovation Origins. “€32 million seems like a lot of money, but if you divide it by 53 cities in 21 European countries invited to participate in the NetZeroCities Program, very little remains.”


NetZeroCities is a project consortium comprising 33 partners from 27 European countries. The project supports the 112 European cities known as the Mission Cities in drastically reducing their greenhouse gas emissions to achieve climate neutrality. The EU Cities Mission supports the European Green Deal in building a low-carbon, climate-resilient future through research and innovation. The 53 pilot cities chosen must implement “systemic and locally designed innovative actions covering multiple areas from buildings to waste and levers for change, including governance, finance, and policy.”

Lotte Meerhoff, a member of the Eindhoven City Council for GroenLinks, does not want to stop there. She submitted a motion tonight calling on the municipality to quickly leap from small pilots to large breakthrough projects. “This summer’s climate news shows we no longer have time for small-scale pilots. It’s time to scale up.”

Breakthrough team

To achieve that scale-up, Meerhoff wants the city council to create a “breakthrough team”. There is plenty of enthusiasm for this in the city, she explained in her speech. “During the Eindhoven climate conferences, we noticed the energy and ideas from the city’s experts, officials, and organizations. From young people to grandparents. And from small initiatives to big breakthroughs. We want to hold on to that. We need this ability to think big for the ambition of a climate-neutral 2030.”

That breakthrough team should keep a constant eye on the 2030 ambition. Simplifying processes and scaling them up so that the effects are felt more quickly should be the task of this team. “It’s really nice that we now have two living labs, but if you want to be climate-neutral in 2030, you need to have 10 of them now.” Or look at the initiative conceived in Eindhoven to combine wind and solar energy in a “powernest”. One is currently operating at Strijp-S, and a second is planned near the train station. Meerhoff thinks that’s not moving forward fast enough. “Not a powernest per individual application, but 30 power nests at a time on rooftops throughout the city.”


Meerhoff can count on the support of the alderman. He supports Meerhoff’s motion and promises to perform what it asks for. But he also sees some thresholds, as he explained recently. “If we want to realize our ambitions, then in addition to a lot of money, we also need better regulations in order to be able to take action. Dare to allow pilots, dare to give a region the confidence to try innovations. Both Europe and the national government are responsible for this. Helmond and Eindhoven can take small steps, but not fast enough. If we want to implement the Climate Contract, there is work to be done in our region and throughout Europe. The ideas are there, the will is there in our cities, but you cannot make big steps without money and regulations as an alderman. And the steps are needed – and fast.”

Lotte Meerhoff, meanwhile, not only counts on many more powernests in her city, but was also happy about the alderman’s promise to accelerate the local sustainability pact.