“We presently recognise that growth in the industrial era has had a number of undesirable side effects. In 2050, there will be no more noise pollution or air pollution and no negative environmental impact. There’s a growing awareness that it is necessary, and indeed possible, to make this transition.”
However, Neumann’s optimism isn’t based on current statistics, as only 6% of operations in the port and the Netherlands as a whole are powered by renewable energy. But this is set to increase exponentially, he said.
“A lot is already possible in terms of technology. We already have fully-functional cars that run on hydrogen and solar power for example. Last year saw the first solar flight around the world. It’s now a matter of scaling things up. I’m optimistic about what technology can do for us. Just consider where we stood 30 years ago. We had only just started using PCs at home, there was no internet and cell phones were still pretty exotic. Compare that with the situation today… that’s what we should keep in mind when we’re looking ahead toward 2050.”
While technology creates all sorts of possibilities, it is more the people's minds that will be the actual driver for the dawning sustainable revolution.
“You can observe an increasingly strong call in our society to make sustainability the norm. It’s what gets things going. And this basically paves the way for further electrification. Things like solar energy, hydrogen and tidal power, which are still small-scale right now, will soon be routine solutions for satisfying our growing demand for clean energy.”
For instance, major corporations like Unilever and Heineken are setting increasingly stringent requirements for their suppliers and transport partners in the field of CO2 reduction measures. This shows sustainability is increasingly seen as a factor that gives a competitive edge and this kind of economic principle can’t be ignored, according to Mr. Neumann.
Of course, sustainability is about more than just the environment and climate change, he further stresses, but it is also about how people are employed. These aspects often go hand in hand.
“It’s important for us to remember that the job market is also going through a transition, and that we should prepare for this. One step we have taken in response to this is to include this issue in our sustainability programme. But we’ve also entered into a dialogue with companies in the port and their employees to discuss this...In fact, I think that by 2050, the port will be even more inclusive, and will offer even more employment and welfare to different segments of our population than it does today.”