Energy transition

Energy transition: ‘Choose which role you want to play’

On 11 April the Port of Rotterdam Authority will be organising the Energy in Transition Summit, which will deal with the progress made in the energy transition in the Rotterdam port area and the latest insights in this field. Philosopher, trend-watcher and endowed professor Ruud Veltenaar will be one of the speakers. He will be discussing which steps we need to take within the current energy transition to achieve the required results as soon as possible. Veltenaar gives us a glimpse of which role we could play in the transition toward a circular economy.

Ruud Veltenaar

“As signatories to the Paris Climate Agreement, we have agreed to keep the rise in global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius. What few people realise is what this 2-degree limit actually means. They think: ‘2 degrees, that doesn’t sound too bad – we can manage that’. However, in reality it’s quite a different story! Particularly because it is almost certain that we are heading to a 3 to 4-degree temperature increase in the second half of this century, with serious repercussions for our society and communities. Indeed, the energy transition is something that every organisation, every Dutch citizen and above all our political representatives need to make work of. But right now you don’t see much awareness of just how urgent this issue is. It is important that we work to step up the energy transition.

The need to kick our current addiction to fossil fuels is part of a far larger transition – namely the changeover from a linear to a circular economy. The fact that the Port of Rotterdam has stated its ambition to be a front-runner in the energy transition is heartening. But there’s a big difference between thinking about something and doing it. There is a strong awareness within the Port Authority that this isn’t something the organisation can do on its own. That’s why this Summit is also intended to get all partners together and take action, with a clear awareness of our mutual dependency .”


“What do we need to accelerate the energy transition? In the first place, an awareness that this time it’s for real. A growing group of organisations and individuals are becoming aware that today’s leadership should primarily focus on the interests of future generations rather than on the short term. They understand that we may well be the last generation that is aware of the major ecological challenges that we are up against and that can still turn the tide. They feel a moral obligation and believe that they have no other choice but to move into action and set an example for others. They do this in hopes of creating a better world, or in fear of the consequences of a climate change that has spiralled out of control. Their precise motives actually aren’t that important – as long as they get moving!

Unfortunately, a majority of people still think ‘things aren’t as bad as all that, and anyway there’s no way I can make a difference on my own’. This large group is shirking its responsibility by hiding behind arguments like: ‘Getting climate change on the right course is mainly the responsibility of China and the US. They’re the biggest culprits right now.’ Or: ‘Let industry set an example – they’re the main source of harmful emissions.’ What these people fail to realise above all is that they can and must set an example for others – both within their organisations and at home, when they’re having breakfast together.

Nevertheless, I’m optimistic about the outcome. Ultimately, everyone will participate in the energy transition – whether they like it or not. However, a lot of people will first need to face a crisis that is bigger than they are. For us as a species, this is unmanageable climate change. Ultimately, the problem will become so massive that it will also become the solution.

So when it comes to the energy transition, we don’t actually have a choice. We can only choose which role we intend to play: ‘Am I a leader who sets the right example and who intends to make a proactive contribution to the realisation of a world that we all want to live in? Or am I a “wimp” who uses spreadsheets and KPIs as an alibi to let myself be herded to the other side – a victim of circumstances?’"


"Awareness is followed by concrete action. And not just action, but maybe even a new baseline. As far as the free market is concerned, players will need to replace their old mantra of ’Business using People as a Resource to make More Money’ with ‘People using Business and Technology as a Force for Good’. How can I use my material and immaterial assets to further improve my personal performance and contribute to a better world at the same time?

The UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals will serve as the moral compass of the 21st century. They offer individuals and organisations both a direction and practical handles to take action and make a difference. I will be going into this subject in further detail during the Energy in Transition Summit."

Energy in transition

The Port of Rotterdam Authority is committed to combating climate change and wants to play a leading role in the global energy transition. The reduction of CO2 emissions and efficient use of raw and residual materials are important tasks for the Port Authority.

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