Thomas Kastrup-Larsen, Source: Aalborg Municipality

The Aalborg DNA shows a will to join forces and develop solutions together

The Aalborg DNA shows a will to join forces and develop solutions together

Interview with Thomas Kastrup-Larsen, Mayor of Aalborg in Denmark

Thomas Kastrup-Larsen was born on 3rd February 1973 in Kalundborg. He has master’s degree in public administration from Aalborg University in 1999. From 2005 to 2007 he has been the Head of Section, AAU Innovation of Aalborg University. From 2007 to 2013 a Councillor of Health and Sustainable Development for the Social Democrats. Since 2014 Thomas Kastrup-Larsen is mayor of Aalborg.

Stunning view of Aalborg

Mayor Kastrup-Larsen you were born in Kalundborg and since 2014 you have been the Mayor of Aalborg, what does the city mean to you?

Aalborg means home! It is the city, where life has unfolded with marriage, children, and career. I moved to Aalborg in 1992 to study at Aalborg University and graduated with a degree in Public Administration. At that time, it was not foreseen that I would become the Mayor of Aalborg – although the political interest has always been strong.

The city DNA shows a will to join forces and develop solutions together. As a Mayor, I believe in our region, in the potential of our city – of our community and the citizens.

I believe that growth and development are more than political key issues. We create growth and development together. By sharing knowledge and cooperating across sectors, public and private, we create a city in which there is room for everyone – because we believe that everyone can contribute. 

What is your greatest achievement or completed project?

The city has throughout the last decades gone through a transformation from an industrial city to a knowledge city. The heavy industry has moved out of the city and the harbor front has been transformed into a recreation and housing area with many students – right in the city center.

The construction sector has been working hard to keep up and I still enjoy watching the cranes in the skyline of the city. It is a signal of growth and development. Other signals are all the young people on the way each morning to the educational institutions, the kids on their way to school and our increasing job creation. 

The green transition has my focus and I see Aalborg as a leading city within the green transition. We are transforming our infrastructure with more public transport, green transport and aims to minimize car traffic in the city center.

Another key issue is job opportunities for students. One initiative has been creating the Aalborg Alliance. An alliance between the city and companies creating a dialogue around what competences the companies need and the potential competences of the unemployed workforce and of students. This has been a major success the last year.

Now, you are in a process to make the draft budget of the municipality for 2020. What will be the priorities for the next year?

The demographic development with more elders and small children means an increasing focus on care for the elderly and more daycare institutions for small children. Our success as a lively student city with an increasing number of young people and graduates challenges our labor market – more young people are unemployed. Therefore, we need to have an increased focus on job creation and matching companies' needs with the competencies of the graduates. Finally, we prioritize our green balance. Keeping up the actions towards green transition within energy supply and the municipal buildings.

The municipality has set a goal to reduce carbon emissions by at least 2% per year. How do you plan to achieve this aim?

The goal of reducing CO2 emissions with 2% per year is set because we are a climate municipality. 71 of the 98 Danish municipalities have this goal and have joined the agreement. Aalborg joined in 2009.

There are several initiatives to reduce CO2 emissions; green agents, the transition of the energy supply for our citizens to green energy, introducing various energy savings initiatives in all municipal buildings including schools.

Recently the municipality organized the Sustainability Festival. Please, tell us more about this innovative initiative.

The Sustainability Festival is an initiative that began in 2013 and has grown over the years. The interest in acting more sustainably in private households, public institutions, and private companies is rising.

The sustainability festival is about making sustainability specific and concrete. For 4 days we exchange experiences, knowledge and show a variety of local sustainability actions and initiatives. The purpose is to inspire citizens and companies to make green big or small changes in our everyday lives.

This year we experienced an increasing number of companies participating in the different workshops – keen on discussing sustainability and SDGs, and how they can take action to become more sustainable. More about the Festival you can read here.

Share other good practices from your municipality. How do you finance them?

Two examples to mention are “Small jobs with a purpose” and “Green Garbage”. Both projects carried out as parts of our work for contributing to the UNs Sustainable Development Goals.

“Small jobs with a purpose” is an initiative made in public-private partnerships and financed through the partnership. The challenge has been on the one side, that companies are looking for qualified employees, but they either calculate with full-time jobs or their existing employees run faster. Hence the companies miss out on their opportunity to grow. And on the other, we have many unemployed on welfare with physical, mental or social problems. A group usually very far from the regular labor market and not used to ordinary paid jobs.  

But, we know, that just a few paid hours a week will help and motivate this group of unemployed people – and they will gain more quality of life.

So how did we get companies to hire people with challenges and perhaps limited work experience?

We created a task force of companies with an interest in taking social responsibility and developed a model for creating jobs, that are task-based and suitable for this group of people – jobs that are only a few hours a day or week. And it works because it is organized through an agency with a similar function as a temp agency. Where people are available through the agency and companies can contact the agency to identify the tasks to be delivered. The companies are then invoiced according to the tasks agreed to. 

Another example is the project “Flex Waste”. Shops and offices in the city center can contribute to a more sustainable city center, where plastic and cardboard are picked up in small electric vehicles and reused – thus minimizing the CO2 emission. At the same time, the shops are socially sustainable by helping to create jobs on special terms.

It is a test-project running in 3 years and financed by EU Regional Development funds. It is our ambition to be able to continue the effort after the test phase provided, we get enough shops to participate and pay for their waste being picked up. You can read more about it here (in Danish).

How would you evaluate the necessity of a portal that brings together the best practices of European municipalities and aims to keep the citizens informed about the latest developments in local policies, such as How can our platform be useful to your administration?

It could be a good idea with a platform for information exchange on what goes on in other cities and municipalities around Europe. It is always a challenge to find information on the latest developments and which municipalities might have actions that can inspire us. For this purpose, your platform could be useful.

What will be the main goals you are planning to develop in the near future to make Aalborg a better place to live?

Aalborg is working with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and is integrating the goals in various policy areas. The main goal would be to carry out actions in these areas.

Two to mention here is our Green agents and our Mobility plan.

One example is the mobility plan we are developing at the moment – focusing on the citizens' needs and not transport. We talk about experienced mobility. Citizens have changing mobility needs throughout a lifetime, and therefore we wish to address mobility and how to move around in the city with public transport, bike, etc. in a more fluent and environmentally friendly way – adjusted to the needs of the citizens at different stages in life.

We are looking into minimizing “short travels” by car – and having maybe 50% done by walking or bike in 2040. We are also looking into minimizing car travel with less than 2 passengers in 2040 – aiming at 85% of all car travel has min. 2 passengers.

Another example is our campaign “Making us greener” with our Green Agents. We have a team of Green agents that are in dialogue with local communities and support them and the citizens on green transition. This could be community organized electrical bikes, sorting waste, improving biodiversity, climate strategies, waste handling, and recycling, etc. 

“Making us greener” is a new campaign to create awareness on sustainability and push the green agenda even further. Learn more about our green agents here.

Out of 100 climate solution examples from Danish cities, Aalborg takes part in 10. For example, Green Agents, Green energy plan, Circular Economy and use of resources. 

Find out more about Aalborg here.



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