Smartest region? We’re not living up to it

Door Cees-Jan Pen
Leestijd ± 5 minuten
  • 4 September 2017

All around the world, initiatives are arising to make cities smarter, more accessible and at the same time more sustainable. Eindhoven doesn’t seem to lead in this type of “Quality of Life” and that is the reason for E52 to dive into this topic in the run-up to the municipal elections of March 2018. What are the backgrounds, what is achievable, what is minimally necessary, where are the solutions? Today, the kick off by Cees-Jan Pen, lecturer Entrepreneurial Region at Fontys. Comments are welcome, both under this article and in separate contributions.

The Brainport region is just doing well economically, and again and again, the figures confirm that the Mainport status is logical. Together with the region Groot Amsterdam, the Brainport region is the driving force behind the strong national economic growth. That is good and you reap what you sow, but noblesse oblige. With the current pace and prioritization of sustainability and climate measures, we’re absolutely not living up to our acclaimed motto ‘the smartest region’.

There are more and more concerns about how sustainable the economic growth of Brabant and the Brainport region in particular is. This week, CE Delft published that Brabant is not going to achieve the climate goals, by far. The Metropolitan region Eindhoven might want to be climate neutral by 2050, but they’re still only intentions. Because this is going to mean a lot, concretely. Painful measures and interventions will be necessary. Circular economy and climate measures are, in contrast to the high ambitions of national employers (next level plan), not even a top priority in the regional business community. Nationally, it is stated that:

“The core of this new perspective for the Netherlands is that we’re facing a large number of transitions. Fossil energy is replaced by renewable energy, the era of analog information is changing into digitization, regional orientation is making room for globalization, the ‘disposable’ commodity economy changes into circular economy, cities get different functions but they may not deteriorate, and so on.” (more here)

The remaining climate ambitions of our business community also emerged from the Business Agenda we prepared for the BZW Eindhoven. Brainport Development is only now picking up the theme. Previously, there was little demand for it. Well.  

What am I worried about? The Netherlands has signed the Paris climate agreement. A deal is a deal. For now, we don’t have to expect a lot from the national government, in contrast to regions, although the new cabinet will really start doing more. Our status of Mainport creates obligations. There’s a reason for the Brainport national action agenda to focus on photonics, innovations for better energy storage and higher quality public transport links. This is a good first step. Besides, we’re just living, working and recreating in a region with a too poor air quality. It’s best not to look at the website of, for example, the lung fund. This air quality is an acute threat to the regional business climate and the quality of life in particular. Studies show that especially this quality of life is becoming more and more important in order to retain and attract (highly educated) talent. Talent is priority number 1 of the Brainport national action agenda and of the business agenda Eindhoven of the BZW.

Something needs to happen now. I call on the political parties to, now and in their election program,  use relatively easy but painful measures that have a lot of effect; the well-known low hanging fruit.

First of all, we all know that motorbikes make a significant contribution to the poor air quality. Look at what cities like Maastricht, Den Bosch and Amsterdam are already doing. Start a regional program, with support of the province, to make the motorbike park electrical or think of a fiscally beneficial program to switch to electrical bikes, prohibit motorbikes on places where the air quality quickly needs to improve, like in city centers and strongly sharpen the environmental requirements of motorbikes. The advantage of all this is that research shows that citizens are also really bothered by motorbikes. So it’s a win-win situation.

Road pricing
Sign in the Brainport region at the new cabinet as experimental region ‘pay differently for mobility, also called road pricing’. Car traffic and traffic jams remain to be a major cause of poor air quality. There is more and more support for road pricing, like Transport and Logistics Netherlands and the ANWB. The expectation is that if the motorist has to pay to use his car, he will sooner make the decision not to use it. The goal is that you no longer get charged for owning a car, but for using it. If you also reward cleaner cars with a lower levy, the environmental benefit is even bigger.

Discuss in continuation of previous if during working days, the maximum speed for the entire A2 and A59 zone can go back to 100km/h between 7am and 7pm and if ring roads around Den Bosch, Eindhoven and Tilburg can go back to 80 between 7am and 7pm. Because we know that this strongly improves the air quality.

On the one hand, schedule nationally and provincially with party members that there are quickly new measures needed to decrease the contribution to poor air quality by the Brabant agricultural sector and especially the livestock. On the other hand, challenge involved parties in the Brainport region to come up with smart solutions in the agricultural sector, thereby help the agricultural sector and offer alternative earning opportunities.

Additional proposals
In Brainport and in the context of the performance agreements with Brainport Development, schedule that concrete additional proposals are made from the national action agenda and by participating triple helix partners, to meet the climate targets.

In this time of economic growth, especially in the Brainport region, there’s a momentum to invest additional resources to stay the smartest region. A smart region is always prepared for its future.