Policy as an enabler – panel discussion

Policy as an enabler – panel discussion


Dolf Gielen, Director of IRENA’s Innovation and Technology Centre
Maria van der Hoeven, Senior Associate Fellow, Clingendael International Energy Programme
Eric van Heck, Professor of Information Management and Markets, RSM
Sharon Dijksma, Dutch Minister for the Environment, NL

Policymakers could be the enabling missing piece in Prof. Ketter’s jigsaw, said Volker Beckers, noting that there are world leaders who neglect climate change. “Massive investments are needed across the globe. For the UK these costs are estimated to be the same ‒ billions of pounds ‒ as the 2012 Olympics in London. How can politicians be an enabler for these transitions?”

Sharon Dijksma, Dutch minister for the environment, said a report by McKinsey estimated € 200 billion will be needed for the transition in the Netherlands by 2060. “With political courage and goodwill we’ll have that money available,” she said. An example of that courage was the announcement, the previous day, by Dutch minister of economics affairs of a subsidy-free wind farm. “You can only do this with clear vision and  landmarks you can fill. We need politicians to take leadership and a clear agenda of what’s been promised,” she said.

Volker Beckers said investments in energy are for at least 10 years, “So we need long-term sustainable frameworks. What is the Netherlands doing differently to the other 27 EU member states?” Dijksma said many politicians look only to the next election, while the Netherlands’ energy agreement until 2023 is a perfect example of co-operation with governments and other partners, while it tries to lead at putting a price on carbon within Europe. It’s failing at the moment with too many rights still in the system, but it’s not easy because the Netherlands’ friends have other political interests.

”This isn’t only about future generations, Dijksma said. There are droughts due to climate change in Bangladesh right now, but many politicians are not taking responsibility, and it takes courage to really make a difference. “It’s not easy, you get a lot of opposition but there are many allies too.” The minister said the government needs to get back to business by investing heavily to deliver growth and job opportunities in the sector.

Prof. Eric van Heck said all stakeholders need good research and prototypes. He referred to RSM’s 7,000 business students, all keen to work on issues such as sustainability, cradle-to-cradle and energy concepts with companies, to be influenced by new ideas and to learn from each other.

Technology alone won’t cut it

Business needs to collaborate with academia, said Prof. Van Heck, to create solutions such as Uber’s ride sharing and using waste heat from computer servers. ”We also need new behaviour. Technology alone won’t cut it.”

Maria van der Hoeven: To proceed and implement all the innovation taking place in science and industry requires policy makers to create the right standards. Sometimes policies can hinder innovation. We need to make sure this doesn’t happen.”

“It’s a mix of government intervention, getting prices up and changing behaviour sector-by-sector,” said Dolf Gielen. “A CO2 price for coal plants is effective, but for households it probably won’t work. Market mechanisms might be combined with a CO2 floor price. What’s a reasonable floor price? It’s hard to determine what this should be.”

Minister Dijksma: “You need a stronger Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS), and a Plan B ‒ it could be a minimum price linked with Western European industries. We’re putting our cards first and firmly to improve the current system. Because if we have a worldwide price for carbon, then we would have a problem. In China, California and Canada they’re all working towards a system like this. You need your own system.” Dijksma added long-term policies are needed, as well as short-term results, ‘otherwise people get frustrated and don’t have faith in the policy’.

Van der Hoeven talked more about the combined approach. “There’s a competitive phase of co-operation. You need money to do that, which must come from governments and the public sector. You keep things in your hand, but then let it go and put money in another place. You start with one and grow into each other. You need industry and competition.”

“I hope leaders will stick to the Paris agreement, in words and action,” said Minister Dijksma. Van der Hoeven said she hoped governments would report on their progress towards the Paris agreement in two years’ time.