We explore and explain innovations that make Amsterdam a smart, sustainable, livable city.We bring people together who have a passion for sustainability. We organize tours, awareness raising campaigns, debates, networking events, pub quizzes and fun meet ups.
Strawberry Fields creative agency has brought addressing climate change to light in a new way with an animated short film, Morgenland (Morrowland). The film takes viewers on a 12-minute positive, inspiring journey about what measures the Dutch can take to have a positive impact on reaching the European Commission’s “Climate Neutral by 2050” goal.
Contrary to many alarmist messages, Morgenland is enjoyable, understandable, and relatable to everyone. It tells a hopeful story while asking every citizen what they can personally do to help. Viewers are asked to make their own unique contributions to combating climate change.
Morgenland creates awareness and lays out the urgency of acting on climate change, however, this is done in a positive manner by spelling out what specific impacts energy transition will have on aspect of our daily lives. The film was strategically produced in an animated folk story style — something that is deeply ingrained in the Dutch culture.
Key points about reaching the 2050 goal are:
It is necessary to reduce our energy consumption by two-thirds.
Remaining energy usage has to be produced from sustainable sources such as wind and solar.
It is important to close down coal-fired power plants immediately.
Energy transition will engender innovation, and increase employment and export opportunities
Above all, the film makes it clear that every inhabitant of this country has a role to play in the energy transition. The film concludes with a call to action: “How else can we work on our country of tomorrow?”
Strawberry Fields specializes in sustainable communication. The film and accompanying lessons for every type of education, from primary school to university, are freely accessible in Dutch and English at www.morgenlandfilm.nl.
I often recommend Plan Amsterdam as background reading for groups who want more information on certain topics before or after their study visit to Amsterdam. This online resource is particularly helpful for professionals and student groups interested in the City of Amsterdam’s approach to sustainability and features write-ups on the policies and projects centered on this topic.
Plan Amsterdam, which has been published since 1995, is a great resource for groups interested in urban planning developments and other projects. The information published comes directly from the City of Amsterdam experts and staff and is written specifically for professionals in the area of spatial development.
Anyone from those who are deeply entrenched in the in the field of urban development, to students who have just become interested in the topic, will find the information in Plan Amsterdam insightful and relevant. Readers will find information pertaining to physical planning and developments in the entire metropolitan region of Amsterdam, not just the city center.
These editions in English are particularly helpful in understanding current urban planning approaches, challenges and innovations:
The City of Amsterdam wants to eliminate its dependence on coal, oil and gas. The goals are to reach 55% fewer CO2 emissions in 2030 and 95% fewer emissions in 2050 (compared to 1990). And, in 2040 the City would like to be free of natural gas altogether. The goals are clear but, the path to achieving them has not been completely determined as of yet.
In order to achieve those goals, Amsterdam will need to switch to clean energy. In general terms, The “Routekaart Amsterdam Klimaatneutraal 2050” (Roadmap Amsterdam Climate Neutral 2050) details how the City intends to do this. Amsterdam hopes to benefit from its collective knowledge in order to spell out the specifics of the plan, and is reaching out to civil society organizations and residents this year.
What are the main strategies?
As many of the new homes as possible should be constructed to an energy-neutral standard.
Until 2040, districts will be removed one by one from the natural gas grid, beginning with three districts.
Generate more energy in a sustainable way. For example, the City wants all people with a roof to gain insight into the possibilities of solar panels and get a so-called ‘sun offer’.
By 2030 Amsterdam wants to have all traffic within the municipal boundaries free of emissions. Charging stations have been set up to encourage the switch to electric transport.
In the coming years, Amsterdam will make various areas of the city traffic-free and will expand environmental zones.
In conjunction with the port and industry, the City is working on new measures enabling it to switch to clean energy.
Who will pay for this?
Many people worry that they will pay the price for the change to clean energy. However, Amsterdam’s philosophy is that everyone should be able to participate and the costs should be shared fairly. To achieve this Amsterdam must set up a climate fund of €150 million.
Amsterdam Climate Agreement
By mid-year, the points that are agreed upon during from the community meetings will be incorporated into the Amsterdam Climate Agreement. Every district has its own climate agreement and there is also a city-wide agreement, in which agreements with partners such as business and industry are included. Together they will form the Amsterdam Climate Agreement. This agreement forms part of the definitive route map, which will be presented at the end of 2019. The Climate Agreement will then be updated annually.
When are those conversations?
Community meetings will be scheduled after the Roadmap is approved by the City Council on 13/14 February.
Residents of an apartment complex on Java Island have had a brand new electric car since December 2018. They have leased and share a new Nissan Leaf with two other families, and it’s parked right under their building.
Residents of Java Island and initiators of Java Electric.
“Sharing is the new thing,” says Carla Pyfferoen. Together with her neighbors Peter Wigman and Janneke Lam, she founded Java Electric. It has taken months but, now she can finally share an electric car with her neighbors. “For our family, the step to getting this car was not great. We already used shared cars, however, they were not electric and not parked in our own garage. The car is shared with three families: Over-75’s, a family with young children, and a single person. “
The residents opted for a new Nissan Leaf which is fully equipped and makes everyone is happy because it meets all of their diverse requirements. Carla says, ”With a fully charged car we can drive about 260 kilometers. The battery is recharged to a large extent within twenty minutes. Via an app, we reserve the car, and keep track of the number of kilometers driven. It has been very practical and so far I see no disadvantage.”
“We like to contribute to the sharing economy, and it is cheaper for us to use a car in this way.” Carla says. “We are now creating clean emission-free kilometers, and contributing to cleaner air in Amsterdam. Our method is easy to replicate by anyone who is interested. I recommend it wholeheartedly, because it is quite easy to realize and there it’s very little hassle. We have given the car the name ‘Ubuntu’ which is a reference to the African philosophy “I am because we are.”
Going forward, Java Electric wants to enable electric car-sharing throughout Java Island. The municipality is also investigating how it can stimulate the rollout of charging points in garages.
For more information about electrification of transport in Amsterdam:
Environmental Zones, or “Milieuzones” in Dutch, were first implemented in Amsterdam more than a decade ago in 2007. At first they covered a relatively small portion of the city and regulated only very polluting trucks. The zones grew progressively and incorporated more and more types of vehicles. Amsterdam is one of the thirteen cities in the Netherlands that has introduced environmental zones for heavy duty trucks in their city centers. The environmental zone monitors the standards for air quality and prevents polluting vehicles from entering the city.
This post provides an overview to what the environmental zones means for various types of vehicles.
Environmental Zone signage, photo by City of Amsterdam
This environmental zone applies to lorries that run on diesel, are heavier than 3,500 kg, and have a Euro 3 standard or lower. Since 2018, polluting trucks with the Euro 0, 1, 2 or 3 standard are not allowed to enter the city’s ringroad, A10. Only clean trucks may enter environmental zones.
There are two options if a truck driver wants to enter the environmental zone with a truck that does not meet the requirements.
Apply for a daily exemption. Costs: €22.75; validity: 30 hours. Drivers can apply for a maximum of 12 exemptions per license plate per year.
Apply for a long-term exemption. Costs: €137; validity: maximum one year. Strict conditions apply for long-term exemptions.
Fines of €90+ can be imposed if truck drivers enter the environmental zone lorries without the proper exemption.
Within the A10 ring road, an environmental zone for delivery vans has been applicable since 1 January 2017. Exceptions are made for disabled persons’ vehicles. Since 1 January 2017, the environmental zone also applies for delivery vans with a diesel engine (vehicle category N1) with a Date First Admission (DET) from before 01-01-2000 applies. Vans with a gray license plate are also covered by these requirements. The date of first admission (DET) is the date on which a vehicle received a license plate for the first time. To compensate for the interdiction, the municipality offers a subsidy for the acquisition of a 100% electric vehicle.
There are no day exemptions for delivery vans. A fine of 90€ applies in case of trespassing.
Amsterdam environmental zone for lorries, vans, buses and taxis, source: City of Amsterdam
Environmental zones must exclude as many polluting vehicles as possible. There were already environmental zones for freight and delivery vans. As of 1 January 2018, the environmental zones for taxis, buses, coaches and scooters and mopeds have been added.
Scooters and Mopeds
Beginning in 2018, environmental zones apply for scooters and mopeds older than 2010. The environmental zone that applies for them is larger than the ones placed on delivery vans and trucks. As you can see on this map compared to the one above.
Amsterdam environmental zone for scooters and mopeds, source: City of Amsterdam
From January 1st2018, the environmental zone applies for all taxis (M1 vehicle code and taxi registration at RDW) with a diesel engine and a date of first admission of 2008 or older. The environmental zone applies to all taxis, including those from outside Amsterdam.
However, taxis built after 1-1-2009 are allowed to enter the environmental zone. Taxis that run on fuel other than diesel can also enter the environmental zone regardless of their age. There is an acquisition subsidy for 100% electric vehicles.
From 1 January 2018, the environmental zone for diesel buses and coaches (buses, vehicle categories M2 and M3) older than (DET) 1-1-2005. The environmental zone also applies to diesel buses and coaches with a foreign license plate and buses for public transport. Beginning 1 January 2020, the environmental zone for buses and coaches will be expanded to the rest of the city area. The environmental zone is monitored with cameras at exits of the A10 and in the city. Based on the license plate, these cameras record whether a vehicle can enter the environmental zone. A fine of 90€ applies in case of trespassing.
The Dutch have always lived near water and coped well with the dangers. They live on land protected by dykes, on man-made mounds which rise them above sea level, near the shore, and even in the water on floating homes. While houseboats can be spotted along the canals in many Dutch cities and there is also the occasional hotel or restaurant that floats by, floating homes were only recently suggested as a viable solution to the housing needs of modern Holland.
One of the best examples of floating homes in Amsterdam is on Steigereiland, the first island constructed part of the man-made Ijburg archipelago on the Eastern part of the city. This island was designed as an experimental area, of which the Waterbuurt or “Water-neighbourhood” is the most striking.
On the western side of Waterbuurt are 55 floating houses designed by Marlies Rohmer Architects & Urbanists. These floating house are accessible via four fixed jetties that are connected by bridges. Under these jetties are all cables and pipes with which the floating houses are connected to.
These floating homes are supported by use of tubs that are submerged in the water. A support structure made of steel is built above the tub, which can then be customized. The sides can be changed to offer either privacy or a lovely view. There are also options to build extensions and expand on the frame. Things such as sunrooms, verandas, floating terraces, and just about anything else can be attached to the basic frame.
There are two very good reasons that people are becoming more open to the idea of living on or near water. The first is that rising sea levels and higher levels of precipitation mean that more land needs to be dedicated to storing overflow water. The second reason is that the Netherlands is running out of land space to build new houses. Creating homes and workplaces on the water is a great way to expand the available, build-able space. Utilizing the water in this way also provides a great way to redevelop abandoned docks and flooded quarries. Especially since an increasing number of people are attracted to living so close to nature and the feeling of freedom that living on the water provides.
Amsterdam strives for more green spaces, pedestrians areas, cycling paths, and places for children to play. This is the vision of the City Council of Amsterdam. Consequently, there will be less space for cars. A number of concrete measures have already been taken to realize these ambitions, such as increasing parking fees and reducing the number of on-street parking spaces.
Together with professionals and residents, the City Council wants to come to a coherent, comprehensive package of measures that will be spelled out in the “Amsterdam Low-Car City” Agenda.
Walking, cycling and public transit account for approximately 80% of trips in Amsterdam.
What is already being done?
It is important that the plans that are derived from the urban discussions complement the measures that have already been announced and are being implemented.
Currently, the first 1,000 parking spaces are in the process of being removed. The intention is that there will be 7,000 to 10,000 fewer on-street parking spaces by 2025. On streets where parking spaces disappear, those spaces will be replaced with broader sidewalks and cycle paths, extra green areas, playgrounds, or new bicycle parking facilities.
Beginning in April, parking fees will rise. In the City Center, visitors will pay €7.50 instead of the current €5 per hour.
New traffic rules, including several “traffic cuts” have ensured that fewer cars drive on streets such as Muntplein, the Prins Hendrikkade in front of Amsterdam Central Station.
Due to the initiative of the residents, the Frans Hals neighbourhood will become parking-free and the car will be considered a guest.
More and more shared cars
Compared to all Dutch municipalities, Amsterdam has the most shared cars (more than 7,000), and more and more are becoming available. Last year alone, 1,700 cars joined the streets. By sharing cars, residents can use the scarce space in the busiest areas of the city much more efficiently. On 8 January, the City Council approved the Car Sharing Agenda. Several measures have been included in the new plans:
The successful experiment that has been running since 2011 with shared cars without a fixed location (Car2Go and new in 2019, Fetch Car Sharing) will be extended as of 1 January 2020 and converted into policy. In this way, more providers and more electric shared cars in the city will soon be licensed.
In order to make longer travel distances more attractive, the City is investigating whether it is possible to issue a permit that users of shared cars can use in the country’s five largest cities.
Working towards a completely emission-free fleet of shared cars, such as Greenwheels.
There will be a shared parking permit pilot program. People who want to share a car, but who each have parking permits in different areas, will be able to park their shared car in both areas.
In partnership with Car2go, Amsterdam was the first city in the world to launch an all electric free-floating car-sharing system.
Examples of streets transformations in recent years:
This is a guest blogpost by Noémi Mené who is currently carrying out a six month internship supporting Sustainable Amsterdam study tours and research projects. Noémi is a recent graduate of Political Science from University of Lille II in France and is now taking a year off to work and travel before starting her Masters in Urban Studies. She is inspired by Amsterdam’s community driven projects and the city’s vibrant ecosystem of innovative and social enterprises.
One of the Institute’s flagship projects is the Roboat. A budget of €25 million has been allocated for this 5 year research program that seeks to develop a modular platform which can support various functions on Amsterdam’s canals. For now, five key functions have been identified:
Delivery of goods: The City of Amsterdam wishes to reduce the number of delivery trucks inside the increasingly dense inner city. The Roboat can offer a solution by diverting some of the traffic from the street to the water, easing congestion and making deliveries possible during the night. Integrating an elevating platform can deliver the goods to the street level.
A key function of the Roboat is for autonomous delivery of goods. Photo: SENSEable City Lab
Transport of people: Not only can the Roboat be used to transport goods but also people. Whether commuters or tourists, the Roboat can contribute to Amsterdam’s smart mobility approach.
Waste collection: Project partners are exploring the possibility of using the Roboat to collect residential and commercial waste which in the inner city is still placed on the street for collection. The Roboat is expected to have a positive impacts on public space not least because large trucks will no longer have to drive though the already congested streets creating dangerous situations for people on foot and on bike.
Sensing: The water quality of Amsterdam has improved significantly in recent years since houseboats have been connected to sewage service. Deploying sensors can allow the Roboats to monitor water quality and inform measures to further improve environmental performance.
Events and temporal solutions: Roboats could be used to create temporary floating structures, for example a self-assembling concert stage or a bridge for a special event. This is why special attention is paid to create a modular unit which can self-assemble in various ways.
The Roboat illustrates Amsterdam’s unique and innovative approach to developing new technologies that can improve urban mobility and livability. Keep an eye out for the Roboat which should make its first appearances on Amsterdam’s canals in the beginning of 2018. For now, here is a scale prototype which has already been tested on Amsterdam’s canals: