Climate neutrality in Haaglanden: A backcasting exercise

The Dutch municipal district Haaglanden has pledged to become climate-neutral by 2050 at the latest, taken to mean zero carbon emissions associated with energy consumption. The nine municipalities making up the district have all signed up to this target, with some even setting more stringent goals for themselves.

This backcasting study builds on the Routemap published by Haaglanden in 2011, identifying the ‘critical paths’ en route to the target and the policy measures required to achieve it. The scope for collaboration among the constituent municipalities is also explored. The final target is ambitious, but technically feasible. The challenge lies in the fact that securing it will require action and investment by every single household and business in the district, even though local councils lack the authority to prescribe action on most of the issues and the general population is not yet imbued with the sense of urgency that will be needed.

Although the objective has been drawn up as a ‘climate target’, the required policies will also have substantial economic and social impacts. The policy package will lead to considerably lower energy bills and give a major boost to the local economy. Implementing the Routemap in its entirety will, as a rough estimate, require households and businesses to invest at least 12 billion euro in the period from now until 2050.

Two of the key ‘critical paths’ relate to achieving climate neutrality in the heating requirements of the existing building stock and in transport mobility. Another concerns heating requirements in greenhouse horticulture , because of the interlinkage with climate neutrality in adjacent built-up areas. Progress on the first two issues is still far too slow to achieve climate neutrality in 2050 and needs to be substantially accelerated to avoid entering the danger zone.

The main recommendations to Haaglanden municipal district are as follows:

Implementation agenda 

  • Continue apace with current efforts.
  • Learn from each other with respect to involving households and businesses, starting with front-runners.
  • Exchange experience and know-how in periodic, strategic talks focusing on how implementation can be scaled up.
  • There is also major potential for collaboration when it comes to enforcing the Environmental Control Act and energy-related building regulations.

Innovation agenda (groundwork)

  • Carry out a ‘heat/cold map’ project.
  • That project should result in a widely supported vision of how the existing building stock is to be made climate-neutral.
  • Subsequently, work can start at a regional level on a ‘district deal’ in which decisions are made on implementing that vision as fast as possible .

Lobbying agenda
Joint lobbying of the national government, arguing for:

  • Dutch support for EU climate policies geared to climate-neutral power generation, reduction of transport emissions and climate neutrality of the existing building stock.
  • National campaigns aimed at increasing the sense of urgency on climate policy, plus public education on available options.
  • Increased powers for local authorities and/or stringent national legislation geared to climate neutrality of the existing building stock and climate-neutral transport.