Transition of the world

Cobouw column by Maurits Schilt

Our planet and its people are being shaken awake. All around us we hear the words ‘urgency’ and ‘transition’ used in connection with the climate, transport and mobility, the urban environment, the rural environment and energy.

The northern Netherlands region is no exception. The volume of traffic on the roads is increasing. Every year, prolonged rainfall causes extensive flooding, as seen in Dokkum only recently. In some areas, house prices are going through the roof. Only thirty kilometres away, closer to the German border, properties seem impossible to sell. We want to make the transition to renewable energy as quickly as possible – but how?

Everyone has an interest in this transition. Provincial authorities have asked the market to devise innovations to increase efficiency in transport. The construction sector wishes to build houses which are not connected to the gas mains. In Delfzijl, companies in the chemicals sectors are exploring ways of using each other’s production processes to increase energy efficiency.

What will work, and what will not? It seems that everyone is trying to reinvent the wheel. This is hardly surprising given that central government has distanced itself from spatial planning processes. There is no longer any overall plan or vision, no national policy which sets out objectives and timelines. In one way, that is a good thing, since it is society itself – local authorities, the private sector and the general public – that must find solutions. But that is easier said than done.

A little bit of streamlining in these uncertain times will not go amiss. The Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment is currently working to produce a new policy document, the Nationale Omgevingsvisie (NOVI). It will focus on four themes: the sustainable economy, climate resilience, accessibility and the quality of the human environment.

I hope that the minister will use the NOVI to bring the various stakeholders together. It is important to identify approaches which may help in addressing the transition issues. Present ideas in a value-free way: do not prescribe one approach as ‘good’, while dismissing another as ‘bad’. What works in Delfzijl may work in Rotterdam... but it may not. That is something we will find out together!

Maurits Schilt
Manager Witteveen+Bos office Heerenveen

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