Emissions Case Study: Amsterdam

When we think of places that have become world leaders in lowering carbon emissions, Amsterdam is the obvious first choice for many of us.  Amsterdam is known as the bicycle capital of the world. The high prevalence of cyclists in the city has gone a long way to lowering its overall emissions. However, in February 2016, Mayor Eberhard van der Lann announced plans to make Amsterdam Europe’s first emission-free city by 2025. So, let’s look at how Holland’s largest city, a bustling tourist spot and centre of industry, hopes to become a role model for others seeking to lower their carbon footprint.

Amsterdam 1955-1975

It’s hard to imagine now that the bicycle culture of Amsterdam was once under siege but in the post-WWII era, this was certainly the case. Affordable motoring entered the Dutch market in the mid-fifties and was immediately snapped up by many of the city’s residents. However, with the increase in cars, came the development of more roads. Many areas of Amsterdam were destroyed to accommodate increasing levels of motor traffic. Road traffic fatalities hit 3,300 in 1971, of which more than 400 were children.

The increasing number of casualties and the changing landscape of the city led to protests. It is the work of these activists that Amsterdam must thank for its continued dedication to cycling as the city’s preferred mode of transport. It has also had the handy by-product of significantly reducing carbon emissions, whilst the rest of the world has steadily increased.

Amsterdam Today

Amsterdam is currently home to around 750,000, whilst attracting thousands of tourists every year. Many canals run through the city. Of all cities on water ranked in the European Green City Index, Amsterdam ranks the highest. It current ranks fifth overall, with a score of 83.03 out of 100.

Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of visiting will testify that the primary mode of transport is cycling. Cyclists are well accommodated, with numerous cycle paths weaving through the city. You’ll find very few instances of heavy traffic. Although CO2 emissions are relatively low, Amsterdam’s lawmakers are determined to bring them in line with the rest of their extremely high-scoring areas in the Green City Index. Thus, laws regarding traffic and transport are likely to be overhauled in the coming years, with the aim of reaching their target of a 34% reduction by 2020. This is far more ambitious than the EU’s overall target to decrease carbon emissions by 20% by 2020.

Amsterdam’s Carbon Neutral Future

The city’s plans to become carbon neutral will be introduced gradually over the coming years. The first change will take place in 2017 when an environmental zone will be drawn out. No vans manufactured before 2000 will be allowed inside the environmental zone. By 2018, further restrictions to the environmental zone will come into play. Tour buses produced before 2005, taxis before 2009 and scooters pre-2011, will all be prohibited from entering.

Far from simply penalising high emissions driving, those who practice ‘clean driving’ will be rewarded. These perks include subsidies for electric vehicles and a possible tax deduction for electric scooters. By 2018, the city hopes to double the number of electric charging points, with the aim of encouraging more citizens to become carbon neutral.

Amsterdam is at the forefront of the fight against high carbon emissions and a great role model for other governments looking to reduce their carbon footprint. Currently, whilst Amsterdam ranks second for transport emissions.  A high prevalence of vehicle idling, heavy traffic and the lack of more carbon neutral transport options have led to high transport emissions. In the Climate Change Scotland Act (2009), the Government set out plans which requires at least a 42% reduction in emissions by 2020. Scotland’s reduction commitments are among the strictest in place in the UK at present. 

You can help Scotland to reach this goal by becoming more conscious of your carbon footprint in your everyday life.  Don’t wait for legislators to impose emissions regulations. Get proactive now. We’ve got plenty of tips on how you can reduce your own level of C02 emissions. Check out some of our other blogs for helpful advice.


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