Handbook 4.0 focuses on the long term: organisations climate neutral by 2050 at the latest


Under Handbook 4.0, organisations will work on a ‘climate transition plan’ - a path to zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. They will set feasible interim goals and make an action plan that shows how the goals will be achieved. Handbook 4.0 uses the climate transition plan to focus on CO2 reduction in the short and long term and differs in this respect from the current Handbook 3.1, which did not call for a path to zero emissions. 

What the climate transition plan will mean for organisations and how it can be a tool for meeting current laws and regulations is explained by two representatives of the Central College of Experts (CCvD): Bastina van Houwelingen on behalf of Cumela and MKB Infra, and Gerwin Schweitzer on behalf of Rijkswaterstaat. 

Why a climate transition plan? 

Gerwin: 'It stems from two wishes: a handbook with more ambition, and because we want to connect to current social developments.' He explains: 'When we just started with the Ladder, it was already quite a lot if you introduced a good CO2 management system in your organisation. Meanwhile, agreements have been made at the national, European and global level, in which the ambition has been expressed to be climate neutral by 2050 at the latest. This new context requires a contemporary handbook. In the CCvD we have therefore unanimously decided to align the Handbook with these agreements. With the climate transition plan, which forms the heart of Handbook 4.0 and is woven into the requirements, organisations are helped to give substance to this.' 

Tool to meet abstract agreements 

Bastina adds, "The (inter)national agreements are abstract. But what do they mean specifically for your organisation? You can't find that anywhere - you actually have to find out for yourself. What I hope is that the Ladder's climate transition plan will soon help with that. That it will become a tool for governments and companies to comply with abstract agreements and to work effectively on CO2 reduction. 

What exactly is the climate transition plan?  

Gerwin: 'In summary, the climate transition plan is a description of how the organisation plans to become climate neutral by 2050 at the latest. We want organisations to start thinking about the long term. If the goal is zero emissions in 2050, how much CO2 must I have saved in, say, 2030? This creates an outline towards climate neutrality by 2050 at the latest, adapted to one's own organisation.'  

Tailored to the organisation 

Bastina: 'Exactly. It really becomes a plan that you tailor to your own organisation. The objective is the same for everyone: zero emissions by 2050. But the speed and what measures are needed is different for each organisation.' 

Achieving intermediate goals 

Gerwin continues: 'It is not the case that you can just claim anything; the interim objectives must be achieved. That is why a plan of action is also needed, with which you substantiate your climate transition plan. So: how am I going to achieve the CO2 reduction targets set? What measures are needed to do this? Which measures can I take now, and which perhaps later? That's how you link theoretical goals concretely to your activities now.  

Is zero emissions in 2050 feasible for all companies? 

Bastina: 'Not all at once. That is why the standard is structured in such a way that organisations start at the beginning and, by looking at the long term, get a picture of what needs to be done. By having a clear picture of what is still needed, the organisation can start steering accordingly. And uncertainties such as the speed of the energy transition or availability of materials may be included in the plan. Something may not be possible now, but it will be possible in, say, 2035. In short, the organisation makes a plan based on both ambition and feasibility.' 

Depending on the chosen Ladder level 

Gerwin: "What also makes it feasible is that Handbook 4.0 does not expect a ready-made plan from the organisation all at once. The requirements for the climate transition plan are woven into the Handbook and naturally depend on the chosen level. At the lower levels, an organisation only works on the building blocks of the climate transition plan, and at the higher levels, an increasingly mature plan emerges, with an increasingly broad scope of everything that needs to be done to achieve zero emissions. 

In conversation with suppliers 

Gerwin continues: 'What's more, working together and putting processes in place is becoming even more important. For example, a major source of emissions in Rijkswaterstaat’s scope 3 CO2 footprint of Rijkswaterstaat is a gas-fired asphalt plant. Of course, that won't be converted overnight. But that's why we have to have the conversation with the owners now. We indicate our ambition to use climate-neutral asphalt in ten years’ time. What is needed for that? Among other things, an asphalt plant depends on renewable energy sources. So that's what we need to talk about. Will that be electric sources, can they find a solution for that with the grid operator, or should it be hydrogen? By starting the conversation - whether you are a company or a government - you can get the whole supply chain moving. You can always have the conversation with your suppliers and clients. 

What does the climate transition plan mean in terms of effort for organisations?   

Gerwin replies, "Handbook 4.0 is obviously different from Handbook 3.1, so it takes an effort anyway to understand the new system. As for the climate transition plan, larger organisations often already have something like roadmaps on energy or sustainability. Smaller organisations often don't have that yet. But we are looking at how we can help such organisations. The idea is, for example, that organisations can start using sector initiatives, a roadmap or climate transition plan made by the industry body, for example. In this way we are trying to limit the effort.' 

Deeper involvement 

Bastina also sees the effort as an investment: 'The added value of building your own climate transition plan from the ground up is that you are much more involved, more deeply involved, and can therefore take more targeted steps. This is in contrast to having a consultant do the work, which often happens now. Once you have the climate transition plan in place, you can build on it every year. Invest for a while and then reap the benefits. That's my hope.