Our analysis of the Climate Agreement

on 06 July 2019

We have been sitting in agony waiting… Will the Dutch Climate Agreement really appear before the summer is over? And if it does, will it be ambitious enough? Opinions are divided on the aims of the Agreement, but we know one thing for sure: there’s enough to get started on!

Of course, as leaders of the sustainability movement, we’re also a little critical of a number of points. We have known for some time that aviation is being kept out of the Climate Agreement – a tense observation, given the statements about ‘possible growth of Schiphol’ later in the week. It’s also difficult for the Agreement to stay positioned as a political issue, the question being whether we can achieve the speed and impact we will need from that position.

But we also see a number of positive threads running through the Agreement. For example, there’s a hint of a scenario in which, by 2030, we might have reduced CO2 by as much as 55% compared to 1990. We also see better harmonization with other sustainability issues in the chapters of the five Climate Tables, such as the circular economy, biodiversity and soil quality. And we look forward to seeing the final versions of the Mission-driven Multi-annual Innovation Programs (MMIPs) – this approach gives us a lot of confidence.

Our biggest concern is probably that all the measures now in the Climate Agreement are put forward within existing frameworks. The revision of these frameworks could lead to much faster progress; however, this is mentioned as a research issue rather than a measure in itself. Our concern is will we be closing the door to the 2050 goals with this Climate Agreement’s incremental approach?

Here we summarize the most important insights from the Climate Tables:

There is a huge sustainability challenge for the Built Environment. For residential construction, this means accelerating the sustainability of the existing housing, while ensuring it remains affordable – it is important that monthly costs (rent + energy) do not increase. An approach is also provided in which the type of home leads the degree of sustainability, because of financial feasibility.

A final legal standard is set out for utility buildings, which we consider a good approach for this sector. Finally, we are pleased to see a separate paragraph for valuers in relation to the valuation of buildings. We find it a shame, though, that this is only directed towards energy, not at other sustainability measures. Luckily we will carry out a study next year on the value of circular buildings; who knows where that will lead?

In Mobility, it’s clear that the Agreement’s authors (the Social Economic Council of the Netherlands) hadn’t entirely accepted that they had to ‘color within the lines’ (good!). Although road pricing was named a forbidden topic in advance, a different funding system is suggested in this Table that hints at exactly that topic. They have also thought cleverly about the anticipated fall in excise duties due to the increase in electric driving – a risk that provides an important opportunity.

We are, however, slightly critical of the 100% new sale of electric vehicles in 2030. We are currently conducting research with Metabolic and CML on the Metal Demand for Electric Transport in the Netherlands – we expect to present this research in September, so keep an eye on our website!

We are perhaps happiest about the Industry Table, which is surprising given the sector’s huge share of our current emissions. It’s a story that has ambition, along with clear starting points for the circular economy, and there is even talk of a system change when it comes to the use of raw materials. Industry must be encouraged to reuse residual flows, so we see enormous opportunities for using the Excess Materials Exchange, in which we have partnered with Alba Concepts. Circular procurement is also explicitly mentioned as an opportunity, with a special mention of Copper8 (page 113).

The approach focuses primarily on the twelve large industries that are jointly responsible for 60% of the Netherlands’ CO2 emissions. It is difficult for the SMEs that invested in recent years to now see incentives for those lagging behind, and we understand that criticism. Let’s just hope that the CO2 price incentive will reach a high enough level that the big twelve will also contribute to the transition.

Looking at Agriculture, we are pleased that in the ambition there is a clear relationship with other sustainability themes, such as biodiversity and healthy soil. The authors have given considerable thought to the various measures that can contribute to lower CO2 emissions from the sector, including less food waste, the absorption of CO2 by forests, the approach to peat pasture areas and, of course, livestock farming. We are pleased that the Table outlines a clear hierarchy for the use of biomass, including the preparation of a much-needed road map; last year we facilitated a discussion on this at Springtij, where the need for a road map was confirmed.

We think it is a shame that there is a lot of talk in the Agriculture Table about stimulating investments in sustainable energy for stables, among other things, but that the pricing issue of a CO2 tax is pushed back as a research topic, whereas this could lead to radical change.

The last Table, Electricity, is of course a precondition for the climate transition. Objectives are outlined here for wind energy at sea, renewable energy on land and other renewable options. Although questions were asked about it in parliament last year, we are disappointed that there is no link made with the circular economy. Last year, in collaboration with Metabolic and CML, we presented our research into the ‘Metal demand for the Energy Transition’, showing that the circular production of wind turbines and PV panels, among other things, is essential if we are to continue working with rare earth metals.

Although a little attention is given to solar parks in combination with nature, we believe that a clearer statement should be made here. Unfortunately, in this Table hardly any relationship has been sought with other sustainability issues.

Criticism is easy, but let’s not depend on policy. The time for action is now! #notimetowaste

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