On Tuesday 21st January all of this came together in UN House, where UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) interns hosted a Q&A session with Dutch MEP Bas Eickhout - A Career in European Environmental Politics’ - geared especially towards young people interested in environmental affairs.
After half an hour of that well-known phenomenon ‘networking’, Eickhout arrived and a charming Cleo Verkuijl (UNEP intern) initiated the dialogue with the MEP, who turned out to be a free-speaking environmental aficionado.
For Eickhout, working with environmental issues was a clear choice. Childhood career dreams of Greenpeace activism were however abandoned in favor of an academic career. “When I found out that I could also think of things, it was perhaps better not to put me on a boat since I get seasick quite easily”, he said.
Having studied chemistry and environmental sciences at Radboud University in Nijmegen in the Netherlands), Eickhout landed an internship at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) which later became a permanent job – however, as he remarked himself, these transitions were significantly easier back in 2000.
Later, Eickhout left academia for politics. “Science can deliver additional information, but in the end, big steps need to be taken elsewhere”, he commented. For a young, ambitious environmental scientist interested in European issues, joining the Green party was a natural solution.
For many years it had beencommonly recognised that Europe was the front-runner when it came to preventing climate change. Eickhout is however somewhat skeptical as to whether we can achieve the target of limiting global temperature increases to two degrees. He however highlighted the fact that the UN process has consistently kept climate change on the political agenda in many countries. “Looking at the European elections, it’s not an easy time for environmental policies at the moment”, Eickhout observed, adding that the European Union is no longer the major motor for climate protection policies. “The international process is pushing us ahead now”, he commented.
With traineeships in the institutions ending soon, the audience was also eager to learn about Eickhout's tips on how to find a job in European politics. As a Brussels insider, he highlighted the importance of finding one’s special area of interest. “I always took decisions following my own heart,” he declared. “When you are motivated, you can deliver a good job. And if you deliver a good job, you have the potential to be successful”.
The UNEP Brussels Office regularly zooms in on the topic of ‘green jobs’. To stay updated on future events, join the Brussels Environment Interns group on Facebook.
Maria Nitzsch Hastrup and Antti Lehtinen are interns with the UN Regional Information Centre in Brussels