One of the Heinrich-Böll-foundation offices is located in Brussels, Belgium. In this workplace employees don’t focus on Belgian national topics but on connecting the whole European continent. In an Interview director Klaus Linsenmeier explains what the foundation does in terms of sustainability and talks about the "Energieatlas", which was recently published in German.
With 33 offices worldwide the foundation called “Heinrich Böll” was founded in 1997 and is part of the global Green political movement that has developed since the 1980s. The foundation describes itself as an agency for green visions and projects, a think tank for policy reforms, and an international network. The “Greenhouse Development Rights” describe the impasse between the climate crisis and development, which needs to be overcome.
Mr. Linsenmeier, what is the foundation’s goal, what are you doing in Brussels?
“Brussels is besides Washington the only office where we don’t only focus on one country - we are the European connection between all of them. We have two goals: First, we want to foster the energy transition and secondly we want Europe to become a pioneer in this field. That’s why we try to unite all countries.”
Cities are the perfect laboratories for innovations - big enough to test ideas, small enough to drop ideas
How does energy transition in Europe develop?
“Actually not very well, since each country focuses on its own national problems/projects. Furthermore, each country has different resources, trying to use mainly them. For example, we are in Belgium - Belgium is dominated by nuclear power, so no example - communication and enlightenment are still very difficult. So, what we do is travel along the frontiers. We visit cities that are situated close to other neighbouring countries and check whether they connect to their neighbours and advise what they could do. Unfortunately, we ascertained that each region gets more powerful caring for itself. In order to get a European connection in this field there is still a lot of work to do. Right now we see a point of stagnation. We still believe in this connection because frontier-cities are the perfect laboratories for innovations: They are big enough to test new ideas in a great measure and small enough to give them up in case they don’t work.”
Talking about the blog you created, what are the characteristics and aims?
“The foundation published a blog almost ten years ago, called “Energie Transition - The German Energiewende”, which aims to explain what the Energiewende is, what challenges lay ahead, and how other European countries can be compared to Germany. Our international authors highlight that energy transitions can be structured differently around the world depending on the energy mix and policy priorities of individual countries. But we have to admit that other countries seem to be kind of annoyed of always being compared to Germany. Germany is considered to be a role model, which is not always true.”
A few weeks ago, you published the “Energieatlas 2018” - what has emerged?
The “Energieatlas” is one of the Böll-publications we create every year. We have atlases about meat, ocean, agriculture, and other topics. It is a free brochure with a German circulation of 20.000 exemplars by now that we send to schools and partners. Of course, we will translate it into other languages too and adapting it to those countries. It is not a political magazin, it has information and statistics that can be republished freely.”
Talking about sustainability, how do you act concretely?
We have different campaigns running. For example one is to put emphasis on investors not putting any more money on CO2 projects, which works quite well. Also, to start with a small example: Our office in Berlin is built 100 % green, which means perfect isolation using the warmth coming from computers to heat the rooms or when there is too little oxygen windows open automatically. It is a step into the right direction.
City profile Brussels
Brussels has about 180.000 inhabitants and is not only the capital of the Kingdom of Belgium but also the capital city of the EU, NATO, Eucontrol, and the Benelux Union. Its main industrial sector is the public services sector. The distance between Brussels and Mechelen was one of the first railways on the European continent in the 1800s. Since 1992 Brussels is home to the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, and the European Council in the European Quarter. Inspired by the zero-waste movement Brussels has significantly reduced its waste (20 % since 2000). The goal is to recycle 50 % of the waste by 2020. From May to July an event for a wasteless society called "Hulpbronnen - en afvalbeheerplan" will take place where residents can participate. Further, the city is part of the EU GreenWeek in May 2018.
Personal hint: Young people come together on "Place du Luxembourg", next to the European Quarter, especially on thursday nights. The city has a huge cultural scene and many events are for free. Belgium's delicacy are "Fries with clams".