a CO2 budget for a municipality

Slowly understanding growth that with regard to CO2, it is not so much about gradual reductions, but about staying within an absolute maximum: the Carbon budget. The maximum amount of CO2 that can still be emitted to maintain a chance of a maximum of 1.5 degrees of warming.

Recently I had the opportunity to explore what that means for a municipality. The island Municipality of Schouwen Duiveland dared to confront itself with the absolute consequences of the 0-CO2 target. I have enormous respect for the alderman and the college who had the courage to explore this.

Let me start by saying that I don’t envy SD. It is not the most favorable place to live with a view to the future. It is already below sea level, and drinking water, the first necessary source of life, is already in short supply. Then there are also the peak loads, caused by visitors from outside the Island, tourists, who use scarce resources and, among other things, ‘burden’ the local remaining CO2 budget.

There are also a number of favorable factors: such as the fact that relatively few people live there, about 1.5 person/ha, in the Netherlands it is 5.2 /ha on average. The other favorable circumstance is that the municipality also has a large surface of water, from which also some resources can be derived, especially food.

The absolute share in the remaining CO2 budget is relatively easy to calculate. At least assuming that everyone in the world is entitled to an equal share. Arguably, the rich world has already used up more than its fair share, but that’s another discussion. A proportional share has been assumed here. And SD will have exhausted that in 5 years.

In order to know what’s (still) possible with those numbers, there are a number of questions that need to be answered. They provide insight into a life with a small residual amount of CO2 emissions, and then without…

1– What can still be done with the remaining budget?

2– What can be produced within the Municipality, SD, locally, renewable?

3– What is possible without CO2 emissions, if organized differently?

4– And explore the disaster scenario: what if we immediately went into a CO2 lockdown, just like with Corona, because the consequences of climate change are getting out of hand?

These are questions that every municipality should dare to ask itself, in order to be prepared for what is to come, sooner or later.

Without repeating the whole report here, which is publicly available [1][2] , a few indicative examples (numbers are approximate, it was an exploratory study):

what can still be done with the absolute remaining budget?

If we divide the remaining 1.5 degrees budget in proportion to current sectors, then with the ‘built environment budget’ approximately 12000 of the 16000 homes can be renovated to zero energy, according to the usual methods (‘nilonthemeter’ concept, or passive house approach). So not even all. And mind that no other emissions are possible anymore from that point on, or during the period that the renovation lasts, because then there are still emissions from the non-renovated homes, and the budget will then of course decrease. In addition, there is no longer a budget for public buildings, offices, or infrastructure adjustments and the like. Let alone new construction.

The budget, in proportion, for energy, with which another 50 land turbines could be built, of 2 MW, would be sufficient for about 23% of the current electricity demand. That’s all.

( Apart even from material exhaustion and CO2 investments for storage for, among other things, unevenness )

what can SD produce itself, from its own land?

If we divide the available agricultural area, or available productive land, into 3 equal parts, then the entire population can eat vegetarian food from the first part.

Biomass can be produced from the second part, via forests about 3 m3 per family per year, which can be freely spent on building materials or for cooking or heating (irrespective of the desirability of this, it is about making the budget transparent). In comparison: In Southern Africa many still cook on biomass/wood, and they need about 3 m3 per year for this.

The third part is then available for other production. Suppose that it is used for energy via biodiesel from rapeseed, then this provides sufficient fuel per family to drive about 2,850 km per year with their diesel car. Even then, however, there is no land left for any other use or production.

Incidentally, there is also the sea, where mainly food could come from.

What in case of a CO2 lockdown, as with corona…?

In that case, there is no more room for investments that require fossil energy, and then it comes down to very rapid conversion of the land use to provide basic facilities. It is not all about starting from scratch, some of the necessary renewable energy capacity has already been installed, namely approximately 4700 kWh. per person, which is not even that bad. But that is without all business activities being provided with electricity. (see also how the Scottish island of Eigg has run things: [3], and an exploration of a lockdown [4] )

The findings immediately lead to a number of dilemmas and options:

– Where or what to spend that remaining CO2 budget on?

– How to deploy own land, (what kind of yield needs from agriculture)

– What to do with tourism?

– How are we going to arrange transport on the island?

– which facilities are essential, in case of a CO2 lockdown?

– How to organize that together?

It is not said that this will be arranged tomorrow, nor that a municipality can arrange everything. But it does show the seriousness of the situation (in 8 years’ time there should be a 50% reduction anyway!), and the need to come up with a number of (emergency) scenarios, and to explore together with the population and companies where priorities will be set. Because sooner or later,, those choices will have to be made. Also by municipalities, which, among other things, have the task of protecting its inhabitants, and in any case to ensure that basic facilities are maintained when the need arises, ‘when the shit hits the fan’ .

Incidentally, more detailed studies will follow in the coming months as a result of this exploration, and the choices to be made will be examined together with local parties.


PS see also the graphics used to illustrate the differnce in reduction and absolute approach  here: : https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/geen-co2-reductie-maar-explosie-ronald-rovers/


[1] presentation and report (in Dutch) https://schouwenduiveland.raadsinformatie.nl/meeting/895357/Public%20digitale%20informatiemeeting%20results%20CO2%20nulmeter%2018-11-2021

[2] broadcasting Zeeland: https://www.omroepzeeland.nl/nieuws/14189312/tijd-tikt-weg-voor-climate-op-schouwen-duiveland

[3] Eigg Island: http://www.ronaldrovers.com/eigg-whats-next-22/

[4] lockdown: http://www.ronaldrovers.com/imagine-a-acute-co2-lockdown-then-what/

and http://www.ronaldrovers.com/co2-lockdown-continued-1-tonne-co2/