Cooperation is crucial to understanding Green Deal data

/ Author: Miriam van der Sangen
Wind turbines in the province of Flevoland
© Hollandse Hoogte / Rob Voss
On 14 March 2023, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) organised a Green Deal Workshop to focus on key issues such as climate change, energy, the environment and nature and their associated challenges and objectives. More than 100 experts from around 45 different organisations came together to discuss their information needs around the Green Deal themes. It was clear that cooperation is crucial.

Cooperation is the key

Angelique Berg, CBS’ Director General, opened the plenary session. She acknowledged the dizzying amount of available information on Green Deal-related data, but also that that information is fragmented and there are gaps in our knowledge. ‘That’s why we have to talk to our stakeholders and other knowledge institutions to really understand what information is needed,’ she said. ‘Cooperation is the key.’ She emphasised that CBS has the ambition to make the statistical information about the Green Deal more accessible, both to experts and to the general public. ‘I have great expectations.’

Alarming keynote speech

The workshop participants were then surprised by an inspiring yet alarming keynote speech by Maarten van Aalst, who became CEO of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) on 1 February and who also lectures at the University of Twente. In his speech he referred to the Paris Climate Agreement, which was signed by 195 countries at the end of 2015 and which entered into force in 2020. ‘The signatories agreed that the rise in average global temperatures must not exceed 2 degrees Celsius, with efforts to further limit the increase to 1.5 degrees,’ he recalled. ‘Whether we achieve this remains to be seen. Even in 2015, when the agreement was signed, the KNMI warned that the climate change situation was very serious. Several years have now passed, and we’ve seen many examples of the catastrophic effects of climate change.’

flooding in Valkenburg
© Hollandse Hoogte

Overtaken by events

Van Aalst also emphasised the importance of cooperation, including a clear role for knowledge institutions such as the KNMI and CBS. These organisations complement each other in terms of data on the climate, weather, society, the environment and nature. ‘But despite all kinds of good initiatives – such as the Eurostat indicators – we’re already falling behind and being overtaken by events. We had flooding in Paris in the summer of 2016, and of course there was Storm Ophelia that hit Ireland in 2017 and caused so much damage. The province of Limburg in our own country was affected by flooding in 2021, as were Germany and Belgium, with hundreds of victims.’ Van Aalst asked his audience to name the last century’s three most deadly natural disasters in the Netherlands. ‘The North Sea Flood of 1953 was natural disaster number one, followed by the two heatwaves of 2003 and 2006.’ The KNMI CEO noted the striking fact that, according to research by the municipality of The Hague, although vulnerable districts suffer more acutely from climate change, relevant subsidies actually end up going to wealthier districts.

Reaching the limit

‘Basically, the weather is becoming increasingly more extreme, we are increasingly being surprised by the effects of climate change, and we’re trying to adapt to those effects but we’re reaching the limit of what we can do,’ Van Aalst warned. ‘Our response can actually increase the risks of climate change. We already have plenty of information about exactly what is going on in terms of climate change and its effects, but we need to bring those data together and get them properly organised.’ For Van Aalst, the KNMI has a public duty to ensure that people are aware of how the climate is changing. ‘We provide the information that makes debate on this issue possible. We also need to take focused action in the next few years, such as linking the short term with the longer term, improving our understanding of systems and promoting effective communication and cooperation.’

two cyclists in heathland
© Hollandse Hoogte / Lex van Lieshout

Stakeholder information needs

Thom Werkhoven was next to speak. He is CBS’ Green Deal Project Leader, and he outlined what has already been set in motion internationally. ‘For example, the European Green Deal Action Plan was created in 2020 and the European statistical office Eurostat has transformed it into a statistical action plan. There is an acute need for Green Deal-related statistics, both nationally and internationally.’ Werkhoven highlighted what CBS has done so far in relation to the Green Deal. ‘Our approach involves three levels. First, we want to identify the needs of our stakeholders. Then we aim to reinforce the development of statistics by devising smart solutions – cost effective responses with no or low administrative burden – and intensify both national and international cooperation. We’re also focused on improving the communication and dissemination of data on the Green Deal, for instance by creating Green Deal dashboards.’ CBS first aims to identify information on the Green Deal at a national level, Werkhoven explained, followed by the different regions and sectors. A survey of the workshop participants to identify the information they needed most revealed a need for data on issues such as energy use, financial consequences, biodiversity and natural capital.

Expert sessions

After lunch, multiple expert sessions were held, featuring presentations on a wide range of topics. There was plenty of opportunity for discussion and input from the participants. One session was led by Maurits Boomars from the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. Boomars is Green Deal coordinator of the Ministry and is involved in relevant European negotiations. ‘Until the beginning of last year, the Green Deal was mainly seen as a package of climate policies, but it’s much more than that,’ he explained. ‘It’s firmly embedded in our organisation, for example, both at the top of our ministry and among the portfolio holders.’ Boomars emphasised how important it is to have proper statistics on the Green Deal, so politicians can make the right choices. ‘I locate CBS’ role primarily in reviewing policies and their consequences, and in calling attention to trends. From there, it’s up to politicians to take action based on the advice they receive.’ Boomars also observed the fragmented nature of Green Deal-related data. ‘Each organisation has a part of the same puzzle, but those parts make up a very comprehensive whole. That’s why we have to face this challenge together, and for that we need an integrated approach.’