Science
Catrinus Jepma Photo by Reyer Boxem

Retirement? What’s that? #2Catrinus Jepma

‘I’m not going to twiddle my thumbs all day’

Catrinus Jepma Photo by Reyer Boxem
Catrinus Jepma is one of various retired UG professors who doesn’t know how to quit. The 68-year-old economist heads up big projects on energy and sustainability at the New Energy Coalition. ‘I never had any plans to retire.’
30 November om 11:18 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 10 January 2022
om 17:32 uur.
November 30 at 11:18 AM.
Last modified on January 10, 2022
at 17:32 PM.

Door Rob van der Wal

30 November om 11:18 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 10 January 2022
om 17:32 uur.

By Rob van der Wal

November 30 at 11:18 AM.
Last modified on January 10, 2022
at 17:32 PM.

Rob van der Wal

‘This might turn out to be a big deal’, thought then assistant professor of international economics Catrinus Jepma in the late eighties when he first heard about global warming. Back then, neither economists nor the general public were very aware of the issue. ‘It was one of those things weird scientists were preoccupied with. But economists couldn’t just stand by the sidelines, I felt.’

Jepma joined the negotiations for the famous Kyoto Protocol, about how to decrease the emission of greenhouse gases. ‘It sure felt like I made an impact there.’

Niche

He was able to join the negotiations because climate science for economists was still in its early stages back then. ‘If you’re in a large field that everyone is interested in, you’re lucky to break through and have some people listen to you.’ But he was looking for a small field; his own little niche. ‘I figured it would enable me to participate on an international level.’

I’ve got plenty of work, everyone wants something from me

In the late eighties, Jepma wrote a report for a conference on an international climate fund aimed at compensating developing countries. But he realised that the greenhouse effect meant that the whole energy market needed an overhaul. 

‘Companies will fight that.’ They’ll have to be convinced through subsidies and tax breaks. It’s a hundred-million-euro field. ‘That made the energy sector very interesting to me.

Represent

Jepma stayed connected to the university, although in the end he only worked there one day a week. Nevertheless, the UG noticed his efforts on energy and climate policies. ‘Around 2000, they asked me to represent the university in the field of energy and sustainability.’ Jepma managed to raise forty million euros for research projects, and he organised an annual energy conference in MartiniPlaza.

Two years ago, Jepma turned sixty-six, which meant he had to retire from the UG. ‘I said I’d be willing to keep working for them. I know people in Brussels and The Hague I could put in touch with the UG.’ But the dean of the economics faculty refused; it was policy. Jepma has made peace with it. 

If you can shine a spotlight on interesting developments, there’s no reason to quit just yet

‘I’ve got plenty of other work. Everyone wants something from me. That might sound a little arrogant, but that’s what it felt like.’ He did consider enjoying his retirement and getting a hobby or two, but it never worked out, he says. ‘People were always asking me for one job or another.’ 

Schiermonnikoog

He currently spends three to four days a week chairing the New Energy Coalition, a foundation set up by the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, the UG, various companies, and the government.

One reason he hasn’t been able to relax, says Jepma, might be because his wife still works four days a week. ‘If she didn’t work, I might just suggest we go to Schiermonnikoog for a week. But she’s away, and I’m not going to sit around twiddling my thumbs all day.’

‘No one makes a difference in social growth on their own. But if you feel that you can shine a spotlight on interesting developments and that people are willing to listen, there’s no reason to quit just yet.’

Retirement? What’s that?

Series | These scientists don’t know how to quit

These pensioners won’t quit: Doekele Stavenga (79) ‘I don’t know how to slack off’

These pensioners won’t quit: Trudy Dehue (70) ‘I still work just as hard’

These pensioners won’t quit: Ton Schoot Uiterkamp (77): ‘I get a kick out of teaching’

These pensioners won’t quit: Henk Kauffman (82): ‘The contact with China was the best part’

These pensioners won’t quit: Betty Meyboom-de Jong (82): ‘I’m too old to do nothing’

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