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Photo: a climate march in Amsterdam (Sabine Joosten -ANP)
Een kind draagt een protestbord tijdens een klimaatmars in Amsterdam
The Dutch government has set ambitious sustainability targets: greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by at least 55% by 2030, in line with the EU’s Fit for 55 package of legislation. The Netherlands must be climate-neutral by 2050. Among other things, these aims require sweeping changes in the way we live, travel, generate and consume energy, and practice farming. With such big changes, there are always winners and losers. Ways are therefore being sought, within both Dutch and European policy-making, for shaping these transitions in an equitable manner.

The Rathenau Instituut aims – through research and dialogue – to clarify how science, technology, and innovation can contribute to ensuring that there is a fair climate-neutral society by 2050.


Focus areas

Socially responsible climate innovation
The Rathenau Instituut intends investigating socially responsible climate innovation that takes account, inter alia, of the consequences for society, the environment, and the landscape. The construction of onshore wind power can, for example, provoke resistance within the local community, and nuclear power requires final disposal of radioactive waste in the deep underground. Difficult trade-offs also come into play with innovations such as CO2 sequestration, low-emission housing for livestock, offshore wind power, hydrogen factories, and electric cars, for example as regards the funding of innovations and the design of our infrastructure.

The Rathenau Instituut intends exploring how legitimate concerns can be addressed during development of and decision-making on climate innovation without compromising sustainability goals. Some of the issues relate to “exnovation”, i.e. the phasing out of unsustainable technology, for example the goal of phasing out the use of natural gas in the Netherlands. How can the costs involved be apportioned equitably? We will also focus on how digital technology can be made more sustainable in order to reduce its share of energy, water and space consumption.

Innovation policy for climate neutrality
Making society climate-neutral by 2050 requires a revamped innovation policy that can spur on and drive the process of making our economy and industry sustainable. The Rathenau Instituut intends investigating what form that innovation policy should take. What does the climate challenge entail, for example, for how research is funded, and for collaboration between science and industry? We will also initiate dialogue on the issue of what kind of economic thinking is appropriate for such a change – is it time to say goodbye to the idea of growth, or is it better to interpret it differently? Finally, we will seek out shared views regarding climate-neutral industry, engaging in particular with parties in the energy, chemicals, and food sectors.

Dealing fairly with climate conflicts
Addressing climate change challenges our democratic society and the authorities in a whole range of different ways, as is clear from local opposition to wind farms and farmers’ protests against nitrogen reduction measures. We aim to contribute to effective, fair, and inclusive public management of climate conflicts, with knowledge and technology playing a central role. Which parties need to sit down and negotiate with one another, and how do we bring them together? This means not only the business community and environmental organisations but also young people and perhaps groups representing the interests of yet-to-be-born generations. In this regard, we will draw, for example, on the findings of our ongoing project on the decision- making process for long-term management of radioactive waste. We will also consider the extent to which “digital twins” – i.e. digital replicas of physical objects or processes – can contribute to effective democratic decision-making regarding the climate challenges, for example when designating locations for onshore wind turbines.