The city of Verl is an economic powerhouse in eastern Westphalia - and wants to remain so. That is why Verl has now set itself the goal of completing the transformation before the end of the decade. Here we introduce you to some of the protagonists who are taking the future of their city into their own hands:
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Michael Esken wants to make Verl a pioneering city. His vision: Verl should become Germany's first climate-neutral city - before the end of the decade. "At the moment, it doesn't look like my favorite club will be German champions again in the foreseeable future," says Esken. "All the greater is my ambition to lead the city entrusted to me to the top position. I want Verl to become a role model for other cities so that we can now quickly complete the transformation in Germany."
It is particularly important to the mayor that the people and companies in Verl benefit from the transformation and that as many as possible participate in it. "The transformation must be designed fairly and can promote social justice," Esken emphasizes. For example, he says, energy must remain affordable for people, but the switch to renewable energies will also create a secure perspective for the economy. The broad support from the population makes Esken confident: "I'm very optimistic that our city will be able to announce that it is climate-neutral in 2029."
Michael Esken, Mayor & Football Fan
Photo: City of Verl
Fabian Humpert is passionate about driving the transformation to climate neutrality in the city of Verl: "It gives me great pleasure to work on the transformation together with a motivated city community and to see results. And of course I also see the need for us to act now to preserve our livelihoods."
Thanks to his technical expertise, the natural scientist with a doctorate knows which changes are now required in various sectors, which measures can realistically be implemented and what is needed to achieve them: "Climate protection is given the necessary relevance in Verl," says Humpert. Thanks to his close and regular contact with Mayor Michael Esken, processes can be initiated quickly and measures implemented efficiently. Humpert adds: "I am delighted that my team is being expanded and that I am getting such active support. In the medium term, we want to develop my staff position into the "Leitstelle #2029"." For the climate protection manager, one thing is clear: "We can only implement the transformation if we create the necessary structures for it now."
Left: Fabian Humpert, climate protection manager & family man (Photo: City of Verl). Right: Berthold Pape, council member & farmer (Photo: Peter Berger).
"When I spoke about climate change a few years ago, I was still often looked at askance. Now we have unanimously adopted climate neutrality 2029 for Verl in the council," says Berthold Pape proudly. He is a council member for the city of Verl and a farmer: "For agriculture, climate change is already more real than for many other people in Germany. We can rarely rely on reliable crop yields and the climatic and ecological changes are already so dramatic that they are shaking our empirical knowledge: Centuries-old farming rules suddenly no longer apply. I'm very glad we've decided to transform and move forward as a united urban community."
The Ukraine war made many people realize that everyday things that were considered safe and taken for granted were not necessarily safe at all, Pape said. The energy crisis was also a decisive factor that highlighted the need to switch to renewable energies. As a result, he said, it became clear to many people the multi-faceted nature of climate protection: "Climate protection means taking preventive action and containing dangers in good time - but above all, climate protection means quality of life and independence." Following the success of the council's decision, Pape stresses that "it is now also important to stay on the ball with every further step and to commit ourselves to the changes that are indispensable."