‘The Green Deal of Electric Driving’

A national solution for cutting emissions

On the 6th of June, 2016, minister Henk Kamp from the Dutch department of Economics, wrote a statement to the parliament in which he announced the plan of action;‘De groene deal van Elektisch rijden (Rvo, 2016). In this plan several targets were mentioned. By 2020 10% of all registered passenger vehicles should be running on electric engines, by 2025 this percentage should have grown to 50%, and by the year 2035, 100% of all newly purchased passenger vehicles registered under the Dutch system, will have to fulfil a zero-emission criteria (Rvo, 2016). These targets are set to result in a zero-emission passenger car industry in the Netherlands by the year 2050 (Rvo, 2016). 
 Since 2009 the Dutch government have been debating and developing policies which should enable the transition to a fully electric Dutch passenger car industry. They strongly believe in the potential of electric vehicles, due to the features of the electric car which fit into the Dutch landscape, as stated in their announcement (Rvo, 2016). Short travelling distances, a strongly developed infrastructure, and the innovative character of the Dutch economy should together be capable enough to establish such a major transition.

This transition calls for a plan of action, which led to a first draft in 2011. During the period from 2011 until 2015, the government published the ‘Elektrisch rijden in versnelling plan’, which focused on increasing the number of electric driven passenger vehicles and the total amount of charging points (Rvo, 2011). This led to the first visible signs of a transition within the Dutch landscape. Now ‘De groene deal van Elktrisch rijden’ follows up on this first action plan and starts shifting the focus of the transition to the further implementation of a suitable infrastructure (Rvo, 2016). In doing so, the government emphasizes their ambition to finalize this transition, which has taken a new shape as shown in the guidelines which are mentioned in the new plan. However, the outcome of this plan is uncertain, in order to finalize the transition, it is essential that there will be cooperation on local, national, regional and global level. Guidelines for stimulating policies should lead to the creation of an attractive environment, which will increase the willingness of parties on different levels to participate. From energy networks and the automotive industry to the final Dutch consumer, all should be participating in this process to make it succeed, and therefore must be stimulated to do so (Rvo, 2016). It is ambitious and progressive, but also contains some potential risks due to the involvement of many different parties on different levels, with conflicting interests.

Who would cover the costs if the investments made do not result in the expected outcome, and the transition fails?
 

 In this blogpost, the justification behind this ambitious transition and its relation with global issues and treaties will be discussed. This will form the basis for the perspective during the rest of the transition. Secondly, the three biggest motivations from the perspective of the government behind this plan and their role within this transition will be discussed. Based on which reasons do they justify the plan towards their own citizens? This will be followed up by a description about how stimulating policies can work. Thirdly, potential co-benefiters and opposing interests will form the final part before the conclusion.

Justifications behind the transition;

Long-lasting droughts, heatwaves, extreme thunderstorms, it seems possible that these weather conditions may be seen more often in the coming decades (CLO, 2016). Due to climate change these forecasts may become reality, and may become a serious threat for our world. In 1988, the International Panel of Climate Change was invented. This scientific intergovernmental body, was first founded to look in to the way the climate systems actually worked. Since the IPCC was founded, they have published over 5 assessment reports. In these reports, which are published every 4 to 5 years, they discovered that human behaviour most certainly has an influence on the way the climate changes. Due to the emission of greenhouse gases by human behaviour, the climate seems to change more rapidly.
 These gases are produced due to different types of human behaviour, varying from transportation to farm animals, who make or become consumer products.
 The emissions from human behaviour seem to have grown over the years due to an increase in population, transportation developments, and the growth of industries. It is however, possible to reduce them (CLO, 2016).

In order to do so, several International Climate Change treaties have been established. 
 The first one was signed in 1992, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janerio, the treaty was signed under the UNFCCC. The UNFCCC stands for the United Nations Framework of Climate Change and the following treaties also fall under this United Nations Framework. In this first treaty, there were not obligatory binding rules about the cutting emissions, but the agreements held some principles for further developments. One of those principles was the COP, the annual Conference of Parties. The COP passes decisions and resolutions. It is therefore an important body, and just as importantly, they kept the discussion ongoing (bron). 
 Within the period from 1990 until 2015, there were many environmentally related treaties made on local, national, regional and global level. Not all of them, such as the Kyoto protocol, may have been as efficient as they were intended to be, but it is likely that they have an influence on the way treaties are made nowadays.

The Paris agreement & enforcement by Urgenda;

‘It all fits within the current discussion of climate change on global, regional and national level and the urgency to cut the emissions of greenhouse gases’, minster Kamp said, referring to the idea beyond the Paris Agreement of 2015 (Rvo, 2016). The Paris agreement set the goal to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases from human activity, in order to stay below the 2 degrees Celsius increase, and thereby all the negative consequences that may come with it (UNFCCC, 2015). This raise of temperature is also known as Global Warming. One of the most important aspects of this agreement is that the solution, for the actual reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, can be formed by a country itself. This means that countries have to find options to take responsibility for reducing emissions themselves and are not obligated to do this in a certain way (UNFCCC, 2015).

The urgency in doing so, has been enforced due to the ‘Urgenda case’.

The NGO Urgenda and 900 other involved parties sued the Dutch government for not being active enough in cutting 20% of carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide is the greenhouse gas which is strongly related to the climate change problem and global warming. Other planets for example, such as Mars, contain much higher rates of carbon dioxide, which seem to create bigger waves of temperature differences on the planet (Sciencenordic, 2016).
 The verdict of the court was revolutionary because it obliged the state to take more sufficient measures in order to protect their citizens from the problem of climate change.
 Meaning cutting more harmful emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide. In comparison with the year of 1990, there should be a 20 % cut of emissions of carbon dioxide by the year 2020, based on the Oslo principle. This principle holds that ‘regardless of the existence of international agreements, governments already have a legal obligation to avert the harmful effects of climate change based on existing international human rights law, environmental law and tort law’ 
 This formulation and the primary task of a government is to provide safety to their citizens, instead of increasing potential risks for them. It also asks for more sufficient means and extra efforts from the government to cut harmful emission (Urgenda, 2016).

Role of the government:

The discussion about the role of the government seems to have be clarified under the scope of the previous mentioned agreements and especially the Urgenda case. The government is able to make agreements but also has to take responsibility towards their citizens.
 As mentioned the Paris agreement sets the opportunity to find national or regional solutions.
 This makes the circle round again to the new plan of ‘ De groene deal van Elektrisch rijden’.
 It is one of the ways the Dutch government tries to take their responsibility towards it citizens and at the same time keep the level of welfare on the same place, or potentially, to reach even higher (Rvo, 2016).
 As already mentioned, such a plan contains potential risks because of the many parties which are involved in the process. The transition can stagnate or delay, which may lead to not cutting enough emissions. Then other sufficient measures have to be taken, but will those be on time? What about the potential extra costs for the transition, who is going to pay for them?
 This justifies the question to look into the biggest motivation of the Dutch government to still go for this plan.

1. An impulse for the Dutch economy;

Starting with this transition will have a positive influence on the Economic position of the Dutch society (Rvo, 2011). It will do so by creating opportunities for new innovative businesses in the automobile branch, especially for those who are related to the developments of new technologies behind electric driven cars. In the plan the further development of batteries and services for the new type of cars are mentioned as an example (Rvo, 2011).
 Secondly the Netherlands will become a leading party in this types of innovations, it could be seen as a testing ground . Being the first society to go true such a transition could create an attractive and interesting environment for other foreign businesses (Rvo, 2016). They could feel encouraged to have their share in the process and also develop their own methods, which can be expended elsewhere. 
 With gathering the strength of the right organizations, knowledge can constructively be built and be sold outside of the country, what could be a win-win situation for both Dutch and foreign countries (Rvo, 2011).

2. Energy providing security;

The second motivation is found in the guarantee of energy providing security (Rvo, 2011)
 During the publishing of the plan 32% of the national request for the need of oil, came from the traffics sector. Electric engines are significantly more efficient than combustion engines (Rvo, 2011). Even though this principle asks for a long-term vision, this should result in more energy providing security (Rvo, 2011).
 
An long-term vision is necessary because electricity providing businesses, are seen as capable organizations to furthermore develop electric efficiency. An illustration is made by the example of potential storage of electricity in the battery of electric cars, which charge by night. 
 In order to change the emission of harmful greenhouse gases, durable ways of producing energy have to be found as well. Other current energy producing methods, such as power plants have a large emission rate. Within the Dutch landscape and its surroundings, more of these durable energy providing initiatives are being built, such as wind turbines or solar panels (Rvo, 2016). The problem with these new innovations is the uncertainty and influence of the weather at that particular time. Since this energy has to be kept somewhere, batteries in electric driven cars can form a buffer for the electricity network, when they are attached to the network by night. Looking from this perspective electric cars can be seen as potential temporary storages for durable energy networks. The more electric cars, the more temporary storage will be available (Rvo, 2011).

3. Reduction of CO2 emissions & improvement of liveability within cities:
 
 Thirdly the transition to electric driven vehicles should lead to an decrease of emitting carbon dioxide and other nitrogen oxides . This contributes to climate change agreements on both regional and international level and will simultaneously improve the quality of the air within the centres of the cities. In the plan different factors mentioned which may influence the efficiency of the potential reduction of both gases (Rvo, 2016).
 As point of departure the government states that electric driven vehicles, seen by the whole wheel-to-wheel chain, will definitely decrease the emission of carbon dioxide. The actual rate of the decrease depends on the way that the electricity is produced and transported to the battery in the car and about the electric efficiency of the cars themselves. In order to reach the full potential for this transition, it is essential that electric driven cars are further developed (Rvo, 2016). 
 Because the production of electricity falls under the scope of the European carbon dioxide trade system, ETS, this guarantees that the total amount of carbon dioxide emissions by electricity providers will not increase (Rvo, 2016). Therefore, the government tries to use this European system to their advantage. An increasing demand for electricity will offer electricity providers the opportunity to sell more electricity. These providers have to oblige to the rules of the European trade system; this means that their options will be limited. It would either be possible to buy more energy from other European countries, or to build new durable electricity networks within the Netherlands. Electricity produced without harmful emissions namely do not fall under the scope of the European trade system (Rvo, 2016).
 Lastly, electric cars should improve the air quality within city centres because the nitrogen oxide emission rates of these cars are much lower than combustion engines.

Where carbon dioxide spreads rapidly, these type of gases do not spread as far (Rvo, 2011). This has a negative effect on the air quality in cities and especially their centres. Within the centres it is usually crowded with traffic, this makes it take longer to go get from point A to point B, which results in more emissions of the locally harmful nitrogen oxide gases. Electric cars do also emit these gases by the wear of their tyres, which happens faster because overall these vehicles are heavier due to their large batteries (Rvo, 2016). Even so, the government states that this will still result in a better outcome, meaning less emission than by combustion driven cars and that further developments will make electric cars lighter and tiers more suitable, which could decrease the emission rate even further.

Stimulating policies:
 

 Within the three motivations which the government uses, the ambitiousness of the plan is shown. The clarification and justification seems quite plausible. It comes down to taking the responsibility of cutting harmful emissions and at the same time strengthening the Dutch economy because sustainable transportation will increase on a global level. This movement or transition however will not start by itself. Why would a customer buy a new electric vehicle when its more expensive and not as user friendly? 
 
 Some reasons for customer stimulation;

Electric driven vehicles are on average between €6000 and €17000 euro’s more expensive than combustion driven vehicles (Anwb, 2016).

They have to charge after their batteries is empty, as well as combustion driven cars would have to tank fossil fuels, but the difference in time is significant (Anwb, 2016). Although further developments are expected within the current years of the plan, it might take a quite some hours to fully charge the battery, depending of the type of vehicle and the charging point (Energieleveranciers, 2016). Thus these types of hurdles must be taken, meaning creating more attractive motivations to still purchase an electric driven vehicle (Rvo, 2011).

The up side is that after purchasing, they are much cheaper than combustion driven cars. A battery can be charged from a private pole at a customer’s house within 8 to 10 hours, but the costs will be around €1 for a full battery. This varies from fast public charging points which cost up to €8, where a car can be charged in 1 to 2 hours (Energieleveranciers, 2016).

Government investments, such as creating more of these fast charging points could increase the willingness of costumers to buy an electric car. This would involve other parties, such as the automotive industry to develop their products further in the Netherlands where the potential market is growing and experiments can indicate how to further develop (Rvo, 2016).

Other ways of stimulating;

Stimulation created by subsidizing is one of the central aspects of the plan to transition (Rvo, 2016) .
 Before 2009 the government already subsidized over 10 million euros on projects related to the implementation of electric vehicles and over 15 million to stimulation research. Part of these investments went to the Formula E-team (Rvo, 2011). This team which is an combination of private and public organizations from different fields within this transition, was officially active since the 17th of March 2010.
 The team consists of 15 parties varying from representatives of the auto branch, to electricity producers and the Dutch department of economics and infrastructure. Together they bundled their knowledge and expertise, in order to draft a suitable plan for the transition (Rvo, 2011). In this plan which was mentioned earlier, ‘Elektrisch rijden in versnelling’ they opted stimulating policies for different levels;

· Tax advantages for businesses who take part in this transition

· Subsidizing the purchase of electric passenger vehicles

· Tax free driving of electric passenger cars until 2017

· No tax fees for the purchase of electric vehicles which are purchased outside of the Netherlands.

This combination of measures would firstly have to lead to an increase of the population of electric driven vehicles up to 200.000 by 2020. This would mean relatively 10% of the total population of passenger cars. The target for 2015 was a total population of 15000–20000 electric driven cars, the actual realization by the end of 2015 was 90.000 (Rvo, 2016). 
 This type of stimulating policy seems to have worked out in a positive way, but it does not guarantee the success of a transition. What will happen when other parties with oppositional interests come under more pressure due to these developments? Will they stay on the background or interfere in the process?

Likeability of transition; co-benefits & oppositional interest

International ties and influences:

Since Carl Benz in 1885 has invented the first automobile, and let his wife make the first test drive of 80 kilometres with an average speed of 15 kilometres per hour, the automobile industry has developed rapidly. From just a couple of auto fabricants in the late 19th century, to over a hundred large fabricants in 2016. These fabricants produce a product for a market which has been growing since the invention of the car. In 2010 the number of registered passenger cars around the world, passed the 1 billion boundary (One World, 2016). This enormous growth within the automotive industry simultaneously meant a growth of businesses involved in the process of growth. From producing car parts, to building them and from providing them with fuel to maintain and repair services, the number of participating businesses have grown (Hirsh, 2008). The most part of these businesses have developed their products on vehicles which drive around on fossil fuels. Since the moment the first car was invented, the electric cars lost popularity in the early 20th century, due to the disadvantages in comparison with the combustion driven cars. These developments took a new pace and made driving a car possible for other social classes rather than just something for the elite (Hirsh, 2008). 
 
 New environmental agreements on local, national, regional and global level, forced the industry to develop in a sustainable way. This means that new cars will have to fulfil new emission requirements. They can do so by developing new type of cars, like electric cars, or by further developing the current technology behind combustion driven cars for example. The way in which these developments get shape, depends on the interests and influences of involved parties (Allen, 2008).
 Sustainable developments for example can have co-benefits for participating parties but also have oppositional parties. The co-benefits may come from environmental motivations, as mentioned the air within centres can become cleaner when less fossil fuels will be emitted, which will be a benefit for the people within the cities (Rvo, 2016). At the same time new business or already existing ones can see these type of developments as a chance to become a big and leading party in this relatively new industry, such as the Dutch government is aiming for with their plan. These parties will share an interest in shaping big and especially global developments in a certain way, based on co-benefits which come from their own perspective (Hirsh, 2008). On the other hand, oppositional interest, can have their influences as well. Especially when it comes from an industry which is providing millions people of work. For example big oil companies have a conflicting interest, they have an obligation towards their shareholders to carry out a policy which is in their best interest, and is focused on making big profits (Allen, 2008).
 This counts as well for big automotive fabricants, and who besides that may not be able to provide as many jobs in a particular region, when is changes its strategy behind the production of cars (Hirsh, 2008). Not only the big players within the industry but also the maintain and repair services could have a conflicting interest. Potentially they could lose customers when they would not be able to keep up to speed with the developments, giving them the time to adapt (Allen, 2008).
 
 The list of co-benefiters and oppositional parties within the automotive industry is contains many more parties as just described. The point that I want to address here is the complexity of the conflicts of interest and their relation to the way certain developments are shaped.

In Summary:

The ‘Nieuwe deal van Elektrisch rijden’ is a follow up on previous policies of the Dutch government in order to establish a full transition within the passenger car industry within the Netherlands. By 2035 100% of all new purchased passenger vehicles, that fall under the administration of the Dutch government, will have fulfil a zero-emission requirement. Which will have to lead to a fully non-emitting passenger car population under their administration by 2050.

The justification behind this transition can be seen from different perspectives and from different levels. From a transnational law perspective, climate change and the human behavior component within this problem, asks for measures. 
 The Paris agreement and Urgenda case clarify the current state of the problem and its urgency to come into action. Under the scope of the Paris agreement, countries will have to cut emissions of greenhouse gases but can find their own ways in doing so.

De ‘Nieuwe deal van Elektrisch rijden’ and the bigger transition of which the plan is part of, is a way to establish such a national solution for reducing harmful emissions of greenhouse gases. 
 From the perspective of the government, other justifications are mentioned. 
 The transition can lead to an impulse for the Dutch economy and can create energy providing safety.
 In order to do so, the government develops stimulating policies, which should lead to involvement of more parties in the process. The way this will eventually work- out is uncertain, developments can stagnate and interest on local, national, regional and international level may conflict and force developments in an different direction.
 Under the scope of international treaties and case law, the plan can find justification. The Dutch government takes responsibility by launching such a transition. Time will show, if the ambition of the Dutch government will lead to a fully electric driven passenger car population under their administration by 2050.

An electric vehicle being charged

References:

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Rijks overheid (2016). Elektrisch rijden in versnelling. Retrieved on 3rd of December 2016, via; http://www.rvo.nl/sites/default/files/bijlagen/Plan%20van%20aanpak%20-elektrisch%20rijden%20in%20de%20versnelling-.pdf

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