“Luxembourg must be designed and managed in a Sustainable, Resilient and Efficient way”

Claude Turmes, Minister of Energy and Spatial Planning of Luxembourg guarantees, in an interview with Pontos de Vista Magazine, that “it is urgent to act and reverse current development trends, promote greater awareness of citizens of the challenges we already face and that we will face even more in the future.” Among other details, the interlocutor also confided the strategies outlined by the Ministry in the country’s transition to a green economy.


The Ministry of Energy and Spatial Planning is divided into two departments: the Department of Energy and the Department of Spatial Planning. So, what has been the role of the organization with regard to Luxembourg’s transition to a green economy?
The Department of Energy coordinates the country’s energy policy and the objectives of ensuring a sustainable energy supply and maintaining and strengthening the national supply in electricity, natural gas, solid and liquid fuels and renewable energies. Energy efficiency and energy savings are also key fields with regard to Luxembourg’s transition to a green economy. The Department of Spatial Planning ensures the coordina­tion of sectoral policies at the municipal, intermunicipal, national, cross-border and interna­tional level that have an impact on territorial development.The spatial planning policy aims to safeguard the public interest by ensuring optimal living conditions for the entire population through the promotion and sustainable development of all parts of the national territory. In this context, it ensures an efficient use of land as well as a concentric and coherent urban development.

We know that in the Department of Energy, the country’s energy policy is coordinated with the aim of guaranteeing sustainable energy supply. How does the Ministry promote this mission and carry it out successfully?
Luxembourg’s energy policy aims to respond to climate and environmental challenges and to guarantee the country’s security of supply. Luxembourg complies with the climate ambition set by the international community through the Paris Agreement. In order to achieve this objective, it is imperative to aim for and reach the objectives of zero emissions by 2050 and the transition to 100% renewable energy. The Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan provides the basis for Luxembourg’s climate and energy policy. It describes the policies and measures to achieve the ambitious national targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (-55%), renewable energies (25%) and energy efficiency (from 40 to 44%) by 2030. It constitutes the roadmap that will be put into practice through the adoption of regulations, programmes and projects in the specific areas between 2020 and 2030. The main pillars are the massive development of renewable energies, their integration into the energy network in particular through the development of decentralised energy storage, intelligent energy networks that are digital and therefore much more efficient, the use of more sustainable means of transport, an intelligent building stock and a reduction in the grey energy contained in stocks and flows of materials.

The Department of Spatial Planning aims to ensure optimal living conditions for the population through the promotion and sustainable development of all parts of Luxembourg’s territory. As a Minister, what do you think are the biggest (positive) social impacts for the population in ensuring this quality of life?
The Spatial Planning Law stipulates that it is necessary to “safeguard the public interest by ensuring optimal living conditions for the entire population”. Therefore, such is the mission of the Department of Spatial Planning (DATer): to define, propose and implement concrete objectives as well as territorial strategies for development and transition at several levels – local, regional, national and cross-border – should make it possible to maintain and improve the living conditions of the entire population throughout the country while combining protection, enhancement and efficient management of our landscapes and limited natural resources. Ensuring a harmonious balance of “living-working-relaxing” is fundamental in our society: for each of us, an optimal quality of life is essential for our personal and professional development. It is also an important aspect to guarantee social cohesion in our society. Living in a country in which life is good, where nature is at your doorstep, in which offers, infrastructures and services of all kinds are within a walking distance of a few minutes, these are ultimately living conditions with positive effects for our residents, our cross-border commuters. The concepts of nature in the city, green belts around the main agglomerations or even the 15-minute city are thus an integral part of the territorial development strategy drawn up by the Minister for Spatial Planning.

Is it legitimate to say that, for a country like Luxembourg, it is really important to move towards sustainability and a green economy? Why?
Due to its size, it is obvious that Luxembourg must be designed and managed in a sustainable, resilient and efficient way. The problems we are currently facing in various fields such as housing, mobility, the environment, social cohesion call for solid, long-lasting and shared solutions to answer the two essential questions of spatial planning: how to guarantee and improve the quality of life of the entire population, how to ensure the preservation of the environment and biodiversity while allowing the country to continue to develop. These questions must be apprehended in a forward-looking attitude for the next two or three decades, taking into consideration the capacity of the territory and the limits of its resources, in the first place the “land”, which is a resource that is certainly flexible but limited. Knowing that the available land will not increase in Luxembourg, that the effects of climate change are also increasingly felt in Luxembourg, moving towards sustainability and the country’s green economy is not only legitimate but an obligation, political and civic. If we do not go in this direction, it will be difficult for the political world to implement a fair and inclusive ecological transition, to organize the resilience of the national territory – with a cross-border influence – and thus to contribute to the quality of life for us and future generations. This territorial development strategy presupposes a new approach to multisectoral and cross-cutting spatial planning that combines multifunctionality, urban regeneration, experimentation and innovation. In fact, the smallness of the country requires us to prepare its resilience and to guarantee the sustainable management of natural resources by using the resource of land wisely by reducing land take.

We know that strategic proposals for spatial planning have been put together with the aim of producing ecological transition scenarios by 2050. What proposals are we talking about? What is being done in practice?
Launched in June 2020, the international consultation Luxembourg in Transition brought together strategic spatial planning proposals and produced ecological/zero-carbon transition scenarios by 2050 for the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and its cross-border area. The work was completed in January 2022 with a vast set of new avenues to contribute to the ecological transition and propose a new culture of spatial planning: it was a real laboratory of ideas, strategies and innovative concepts. and experiments – propo­sed by both experts and also by citizens. The result is a set of concepts and proposals that represent a source of inspiration for a different spatial planning. Faced with the many climate challenges and societal issues that arise, the consultation aimed to develop «out of the box» concepts for a new approach to territorial development and to support the ecological transition of the territory by 2050. Seven elements mark the path towards a low-carbon, resilient and sustainable territory: no net land take, reduction of mobility needs, multifunctionality in the use of land and buildings, transformation of the diet and agricultural practices, spatial planning and housing for the common good, protection of natural resources, fair and solidary economic development. The international consultation is intended to be the trigger for the Luxembourg in Transition collective process: it is a question of anchoring in the territorial reality of Luxembourg and with cross-border partners the scenarios, strategies and concepts developed in order to trigger a dynamic that is both feasible to implement and concrete. The first steps will consist in initiating pilot projects intended to function as demonstrators of the capacity of of Luxembourg’s society to really commit to the path of territorial transition.

The truth is that organizations still face numerous challenges on this long road to the green economy. In your point of view, which are the biggest and how should they be solved?
It is urgent to act and reverse the current development trends, to promote greater awareness among citizens of the challenges we are already facing and will face even more in the future, to make decision-makers at all levels understand that a new approach is needed. We therefore need a paradigm shift, another culture of planning and, knowing that space creates behavior among our fellow citizens, it is more than appropriate to develop a new approach to spatial planning which revolves around the mix and reconciliation of functions (housing, employment, leisure), sustainable and active mobility, food, urban and rural development, the provision of public services and facilities, efficient management of natural, financial and human resources. Getting citizens to adhere to this behavioral change is essential: to do this, they must be given, in all honesty and transparency, the information they need to be aware of current and future facts and realities. The experience of the Citizens’ Committee 2050 within the framework of the Luxembourg in Transition consultation shows that informing must go hand in hand with training: informing is not enough, it is important to train the citizen on the issues in a process of reciprocal learning. an informed and trained citizen is a valued, empowered and enlightened citizen who can support or oppose political or economic decision-making. The challenges to be met are numerous and of different kinds, but the toughest challenge is that it presupposes that society and the territory have to adapt and reconvert in order to evolve and improve in order to guarantee a framework for quality life.

Looking to the future, what are the most important steps to take in this transition, in the medium and long term? What new measures are being outlined?From a spatial planning policy point of view, the new Master Programme for Spatial Planning defines a concrete strategic approach and orientations with political objectives aimed at reducing land take, concentrating development in the most appropriate places and resolutely planning across borders. This approach must be carried out, at national level, in accordance with national sectoral policies, including the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan (PNEC, 2018) and the National Long-Term Climate Action Strategy «Towards carbon neutrality by 2050” and, at the international level, in accordance with the “Green Deal” and the European Union Strategy for Soil Protection by 2030. Responding to all of the country’s territorial challenges requires therefore the formulation of a territorial strategy which can only be broken down into several stages, of which two major phases can be distinguished. A first phase, until 2035, should be an opportunity to initiate the reversal of planning trends and practices that do not conform to the framework principles and objectives of a new planning culture. In particular, this involves reversing the phenomenon of the urban sprawl and strengthening the urban hierarchy in relation with the provision of public services to serve as a catalyst for a change in behavior with the effect of significantly slowing down the climatic and energy effects of our modes of lives that fit into the territory. At the same time, it will be a question of initiating and supporting pilot projects, concrete demonstrators and builders of coalitions with various political and civil society actors by giving themselves the right to experiment and the capacity to innovate. The second phase, between 2035 and 2050, should gradually see the paradigm shift in our society’s relationship to the consumption of natural resources, first and foremost land. It is at the end of this second phase at the latest that our society must be resilient, decarbonized and that land take will be reduced or even non-existent.


Revista Digital

Revista Pontos de Vista Edição 131


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