Interview with Jutta Steinruck, Lord mayor of Ludwigshafen

11 March 2020
Interview with Jutta Steinruck, Lord mayor of Ludwigshafen

This interview is part of our series “#ProgressiveLocalStories”, aiming at raising awareness on the many positive initiatives implemented by progressive cities and regions in Europe in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals. Cities and regions have become laboratories for innovative solutions and, with this series, we want to discover how progressive mayors, councillors and presidents of regions put in place policies to tackle the climate crisis, eradicate social inequalities and build more sustainable communities.


Mrs. Lord Mayor, why is Ludwigshafen a progressive city?

Ludwigshafen is still a young city, which was primarily developed and shaped by industry. Accordingly, decision-makers were confronted early on with social issues and environmental pollution, matters that needed to be clarified. These problems have always been tackled through successful projects and a great level of commitment. A sustainable and socially responsible housing policy has been practiced continuously since the 19th century. In Ludwigshafen for example, the first clean air planning already appeared in the 1950s – so even before Germany's Federal Emission Control Act came into force - and continues to this day in the shape of a forward-looking “Green City Master Planning”.

Ludwigshafen is also a progressive city because, as a growing, economically flourishing and multinational city, it has to be at the cutting edge of things. It has to deal quickly and constructively with new challenges and develop innovative and tailor-made solutions - especially when it comes to eliminating social inequalities and building a sustainable urban community.

Due to the current situation around the southern and northern highways, the city is also in an infrastructural transformation process. In August 2019, the “Hochstraße Süd” had to be closed. The reason for this blockage came from the changes that occurred to the existing cracks in the support structure. Consequently, the affected section will be removed in a few weeks. These current events have lead to a new climate and mobility debate, which is unique in Germany. Discussions include the way to deal with public space or how digitization and traffic control can be digitized and brought together.

Photo credit: City of Ludwigshafen


Which concrete actions did you put in place (or currently still ongoing) to make Ludwigshafen a sustainable place and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals? 

On the one hand, we are combating the climate crisis:

The air pollution control plan mentioned above is regularly checked and updated by the environmental department. An associated joint funding project is currently being carried out in cooperation with the neighbouring municipalities of the Rhine-Neckar Mannheim and Heidelberg metropolitan regions: the Green City master plan. Since 2018, the federal funding program “Clean Air” promoted the main areas of action: digitization, electrification of transport, intelligent networking of public transport, cycling promotion and the further development of urban logistics on the basis of individual projects and measures. These measures are aimed at reducing nitrogen dioxide pollution in order to comply with the emission limit value of 40 µg / m³ (which has been in force since 2010) and to contribute to the further improvement of air quality. 

We have also been actively involved in saving energy in Ludwigshafen since the 1970s: first with the 3-liter house, then with the 1-liter house and the zero heating costs house that set new standards in terms of energy efficiency. The city is continuing these efforts with new projects. In the climate district of Ludwigshafen Süd, the project “Süd-saniert” is used today to carry out targeted energy-related modernizations with the help of a KfW-supported urban redevelopment.

The solar cadastre represents another innovative project in the field of climate protection. Here, each roof in Ludwigshafen can be examined for its suitability for solar power generation via an Internet application based on the latest air and laser scanned data, providing expected costs and appropriate funding programs.

Another focus of sustainable urban development in Ludwigshafen has been water restoration since the 1990s. The measures aim at returning straightened waters to their natural course, in order to achieve ecological improvements and create new habitats for species on the one hand, and protect them from floods or heavy rain events by creating retention areas on the other. The second construction phase of the renaturation of the old Rhine trench in Ludwigshafen-Oggersheim is currently underway.

For current large-scale and construction projects in Ludwigshafen, active citizens are involved. On the internet forum you will find the latest information, contact methods and, above all, the active participation for citizens. The city received two national awards for this form of successful participation in the planning of highways.

Ludwigshafen is on its way to becoming a fairer city. The Fairtradetown-Ludwigshafen initiative (consisting of city representatives as well as actors from civil society, associations and institutions) motivates retailers and restaurants to work with at least two “fairly traded” products in their range for fair and sustainable trade. Numerous events also raise awareness among the population on the issues in link to a fair and sustainable way of life (the aim is to meet all criteria for a fair city this year).

In the city's environmental service center, waste and environmental advices (with their wide range of services) include campaigns or educational modules for the education and the initiation of sustainable action within the administration as well as among the residents, especially among the younger generation. For example, the municipal environmental award is regularly given. It recognizes exemplary projects in the scope of environmental and nature conservation.



On the other hand, our focus lies on fighting social inequalities:

We are currently working on a strategy for quality and diversity in Ludwigshafen as a city administration under the motto “We are all LU” with cooperating institutions such as the Job Center, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), the League of Welfare Associations and sports and cultural institutions.

The complex issue of poverty reduction also plays a major role in Ludwigshafen. In autumn 2018, the youth department developed a strategy to prevent child and youth poverty. In addition to this, since spring 2019, a network meeting takes place twice a year, entitled “Encounter poverty - act together”, with relevant institutions such as Tafel, Caritas, Diakonie, AWO, Ecumenical Support Community, University of Economics and Society, consumer advice center and others.

Since the beginning of 2020, the city council of Ludwigshafen has been working on the Rhineland-Palatinate project “Interlinking work and health prevention” in cooperation with the job center and the Federal Employment Agency. This is to introduce so-called vulnerable target groups (such as unemployed people) to low-threshold stabilizing and preventive health offers in new ways.

In spring 2017, the PLUS Health Initiative Hepatitis C was founded in Ludwigshafen with the aim to gradually achieve equal health opportunities for people with addictions. It is a joint initiative of the city's drug help organization, working together with substitution doctors, the network of GO-LU doctors, health insurance companies (such as IKK Südwest and AOK), the City Hospital (infectious diseases and hepatology), the Good Shepherd Hospital (psychiatry and psychotherapy), the job center, Street Docs for the homeless and the pharmaceutical company AbbVie based in Ludwigshafen.  

The city administration has long been concerned with the task of avoiding new homelessness (evictions). In the future, paragraphs 67 and seq. of the Social Code XII (SGB XII) will be applied more and a corresponding case management, together with a controlling social planning, will be established. Across the city, there is a new strategic direction for the “scarce living space” subject - with a control center for living in the area of ​​urban development. A so-called social quota was decided and, by participating in the Rhineland-Palatinate ExWoSt funding program, the city intends to lay the foundations for an increasingly new as well as a social living space.

Photo credit: City of Ludwigshafen


How can the European Union contribute to make your city more sustainable? How can Europe better help cities and regions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals?

The most important thing for an effective and progressive city administration is to have a certain financial scope for the voluntary tasks because, at this level, the “glue” in our society (social cohesion) is provided. The projects mentioned are voluntary tasks that have unfortunately been increasingly restricted by the financial supervision of the federal states (ADD) in recent years due to ever-higher savings requirements. On the contrary, it would be important that the principle of connectivity be adhered to and that (new) tasks for municipalities are 100% counter-financed by the federal and state governments - including personnel costs. However, this is not currently taking place. That is why municipalities such as Ludwigshafen are getting more and more into a debt swirl due to the steadily rising social costs. Accordingly, only a haircut and a future consistently adhered to the principle of connectivity could help highly indebted cities like Ludwigshafen to continue to develop their innovative strength.

To what extent can the European Union work to answer that? EU funding programs with low administrative and bureaucratic burdens as well as the financing of necessary human resources could help municipalities tackle necessary new tasks. This would certainly mean a paradigm shift in the EU and would have to be legally examined - but it could nevertheless be a crucial support for the future of the municipalities. In addition to this, the EU could become more tangible for the local level, i.e. the citizens.

In the areas of climate protection and adaptation (and in particular in sustainable urban planning, for example for sustainable green space planning), targeted promotion of sustainable urban development is desirable. Targeted support to meet the global sustainability goals in the form of personnel development and know-how/best practice transfer would also be of great support. The offers should be easily accessible and not have too high bureaucratic hurdles. They should not be too complicated either to process.

With regard to the topic of “digitization”, a better transfer of knowledge within the EU would be desirable. For example, a think tank or another best practice transfer for European cities would be conceivable. 


Jutta Steinruck is  Lord Mayor of Ludwigshafen since 2018. From 2009 until 2017, she served as Member of the European Parliament. She belongs to the Social Democratic Party of Germany​ (SPD). 



Photo credit header: apfelweile on adobe stock