’Market & Environment’ in the built environment

As a follow-up to the 2003 ‘Market & Environment’ manifesto, a broad alliance of Dutch businesses and NGOs as well as several ministries have been discussing ways of achieving a 50% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in the built environment and in greenhouse horticulture. In pursuit of this aim an action plan was drawn up, which was recently presented by CE. The challenge was substantial, as the goal was not to develop novel technologies or technical measures, but to identify the options available to government and industry for implementing those that already exist.

Until now the main focus of government and industry has been on promoting innovation, i.e. developing new technologies. All too often, though, the essential next step – scaling-up and actual market introduction – fails to get off the ground, as the innovations struggle to secure a place in today’s markets. Again and again, there proves to be no market for most of the innovations concerned and consequently little if any progress towards sustainable development. As things currently stand, sustainable options and practices manage to penetrate only very modest market niches, outside of which investments are simply too high and financial returns too low. As with any other economic activity, sustainable technologies and activities must bring in revenue, and there is thus a need for some form of market regulation to alter the playing field.

After a year of discussions the parties were unable to draw up a consensus document on these issues and CE Delft therefore decided to prepare an action plan itself. The time is not yet apparently ripe for a broad alliance of this kind to establish a common platform on sustainability. There was, nonetheless, broad satisfaction with the course of the discussions, because they made it clear to all concerned that solid environmental ambitions inevitably require far-reaching measures, but that for many parties these are still ‘one bridge too far’. Based on the discussions and the action plan, CE is now doing further research on the impact of far-reaching measures in the built environment.

The action plan comprises four key elements:

  • a government mechanism putting a cap on fossil energy consumption
  • efficiency standards for buildings and equipment, wherever possible
  • incentives for innovation, in the form of temporary grants, etc.
  • removal of barriers.