January 10, 2023
No matter where you are - with a few steps you are already in nature: The district of Calw is located in the northern part of the Black Forest and thus belongs to a popular German tourist region in the middle of Baden-Württemberg. But the area is already suffering from the effects of climate change. The district of Calw now wants to take decisive action against the climate crisis with the help of an ambitious climate neutrality concept.
The film makes it clear how the people of Calw County have united behind the vision of climate neutrality. Together with the administration, our team has developed a Climate Neutrality Plan 2030, which is now to be implemented. Climate protection manager Leonie Roth is convinced of the transformation strategy and talks to us about the most important measures, the biggest challenges and where she gets her confidence from.
Ms. Roth, what is currently the biggest concern for you as climate protection manager?
Leonie Roth: This is clearly the energy crisis, which has made it clear how dependent we are. It's a big challenge to expand renewable energies quickly now. But at the same time, the crisis, the willingness to act on a broad level has increased enormously. I am convinced that the path our district is now taking is the right one, not only in view of the climate crisis. Because we have to ensure planning and supply security and create even more regional added value.
When an administration is faced with the major task of treading the path to climate neutrality, obstacles to action must first be removed. Which measures in the concept are intended to help overcome obstacles?
Leonie Roth: One measure is that we will transform ourselves as an administration. We need to be less bureaucratic and more innovative. That's not easy - our bureaucracy and standardized procedures are both our strength and our hindrance, and some things are out of our hands, but are specifications at the state and federal level. It is important for this very reason that we continue to constructively present our concerns to legislators in order to streamline procedures and use our decision-making leeway locally. The establishment of a climate control center to coordinate the projects is predestined for this. The office will help us find solutions and, in particular, implement them effectively.
What is the most ambitious goal in your climate protection concept?
Leonie Roth: An overarching and very ambitious goal of the concept is the "all-electric scenario" that we want to achieve by 2035. This means that we want to electrify our entire energy system by 2035. Although the overall demand for electricity is rising, we can manage the transformation by making electric heat generation using heat pumps, for example, much more energy-efficient than using fossil fuels.
What are the particularly big challenges facing Calw County?
Leonie Roth: For example, the transformation of the transport sector is very complex. Our mobility must become completely climate-neutral. We need to expand charging infrastructure and bike paths, make public transportation more attractive... creating this is a major task, especially in our rural region. Calw County is about 62 percent forested with a challenging topography. Here, we have to find individual solutions that may not always exist as best-practice examples in the drawer. But we are determined to address them. Another issue will be the shortage of personnel in the skilled trades.
What role does the craft alliance play in this scenario?
Leonie Roth: The skilled crafts alliance should help us overcome supply bottlenecks and the shortage of skilled workers, because we can only achieve the transformation if we join forces. We also need to launch an apprenticeship and retraining initiative to get young people in particular excited about the skilled trades, which are an indispensable pillar of our society. Anyone who decides to train to help shape the transformation deserves the utmost respect and recognition, because these young people will be a decisive factor in how quickly we can implement the energy transition.
So far, it seems that transformation in many cities and counties is failing due to political will and a lack of acceptance among citizens. How is it that the people of Calw are moving forward so ambitiously?
Leonie Roth: One of the reasons for this is that we are already clearly feeling the negative effects. Thanks to my work as a climate protection manager, I meet people from different backgrounds who have very different motivations for getting involved in climate protection. Some people also approach us with concerns because the transformation will bring many changes that may initially trigger fears. Nevertheless, for most people there seems to be no question that we must become climate neutral, because preserving an environment worth living in is essential. The Black Forest creates a large part of our common identity.
One message of your film is that without the population, the transformation cannot be successfully accomplished. What are you doing to actively involve citizens?
Leonie Roth: To this end, we have incorporated a communication strategy into our concept with which we want to address citizens in a way that is appropriate for the target group. To get people involved, it's important to get them excited first, and to do that, processes have to be designed transparently. More complicated is the effective networking of the relevant players. This often turns out to be more complex than previously thought. Solutions must be found across sectors and can only be truly effective if they are implemented in different areas at the same time.
Particularly with regard to wind turbines, there are also many people in Baden-Württemberg who oppose an expansion of the infrastructure. How do you deal with this?
Leonie Roth: Of course, there are parts of the population that are skeptical about change. We also need to reach out to these people and find compromises. One thing is clear: We want to preserve our forests. Not only are our forests worth protecting in terms of climate protection and as species-rich ecosystems, they also make up a large part of our identity here in the Black Forest and are also important for our tourism. Nevertheless, we must also make it clear that the expansion of renewable energies is necessary to prevent further loss of our forests.
For the transformation to succeed, optimism and courage are required. Where do you get this energy to move forward courageously?
Leonie Roth: We can only solve the climate crisis together, because we are only strong together. And Calw County is an incredibly livable region. The fact that we want to preserve not only nature but also our quality of life here at all costs unites the citizens of our district. I am confident that we will unleash our potential with the help of the climate neutrality concept in order to tread the path of transformation together.