We interviewed Marieke van der Werf from Dröge & Van Drimmelen. We talked about what moved her to work on sustainability (communication), policy and politics. Furthermore, we also discussed the initiative she is setting up: Better Conditions for CCU. With this initiative she is trying to get CCU on the agenda in the new formation in Dutch government. Dig in!
Hi Marieke, nice to have you for this interview. Could you tell a bit about yourself and introduce yourself to the CO2 Smart Use community?
Thank you, Mark. Well, happy to be here. Thank you for the invitation to have this interview.
I have a career in Sustainability, but I started as a communications consultant. Fairly soon, I focused on items that had to do with the environment, energy and circular economy. I’ve always been busy bit with those items starting as it goes. Also, I’ve been politically active as a member of the municipality in Amsterdam. I’ve been a member of parliament in the Netherlands as a spokesperson on energy and sustainability. And currently, I’m working in in a public affairs consultancy agency as a director. Here I mainly work on the question: How can we influence policy and politics to support sustainable initiatives?
What moved you to work on sustainability?
Well, the best answer to that question is to say that I was very worried about the environment, but when I started it wasn’t exactly the case. At this moment I’m very worried.
But at that time, I entered in communications and I thought it was very interesting that with this subject, there was a lot of information to bring to the public, but there was an audience that wasn’t interested at all. So, how do you communicate about sustainability then? There’s a double challenge, you have to bring the message across, but you also have to create your own audience. Another challenge was to get industries and companies interested. It’s like, bringing together the interest of the industries with the needs of sustainability for the future of the earth and to accomplish that I thought that was a very interesting challenge.
For industries currently resources and raw materials and its scarcity will become challenging. You don’t see it in the prices of raw materials yet, but it really changes the way how we produce and how we consume.
Yeah, it’s a very interesting point on the scarcity of the resources and raw materials. Do you feel like the circular economy and resource challenge is in a place of the transition where the energy transition was 10 years ago?
Absolutely. I absolutely agree. I think what we need in the next coalition agreement it is good to do the same as we did for the energy transition and now do it for the feedstock/resource transition. This important because of the increasing scarcity of materials but as well for diminishing the carbon footprint. Especially since Ellen McArthur calculated that about 45% of the emission reductions come from the circular economy.
What can we learn from how started accelerating the energy transition?
I think we should implement and use the right policy instruments that promote the better products like recycled materials but also looking at a carbon tax in order to tax the fossil fueled stuff. And as I said, the climate agreement as a policy instruments I really do think we need a resource agreement so we can, we can copy those learnings and instruments to the Circular Economy.
Can you tell a bit more about your current activities on working on policy and government?
One of my major accounts is the Green Gas Association. I’m a part-time director of this association. I work on better conditions for producing and distributing green gas. I think it’s very interesting. One of the challenges I see is that we need decarbonization of our gas system in the Netherlands because you cannot electrify all systems. In the next 10 to 15 years as a transition heat source it will play a big role until other options become more reliable. Besides that, I also work for a company that works with solar panels and advise municipalities on energy transition and circular economy. Lastly, I’m now working on a CCU as well.
Can you tell something about how you work on CCU and how you see its future?
Yeah, well to start with we already discussed about the circular economy and the energy transition. They come together when you talk about carbon capture and utilization because I think it’s the essence of the circular economy. That every material that is at this moment is a waste stream, can be used again in the economy and has added value for this economy. And the most important and the most problematic waste stream from energy is carbon, but as with many waste streams it’s also essential for nature that we have and necessary to produce all kinds of products. Therefore, you have to see it as a raw material for all kinds of use cases. Like plants, cement, plastics and fuels.
What is your current focus?
My focus currently is on CCU and policy. What I see is that we now have a lot of instruments in place for CCS, with storage. Which is a bit of a flaw because the SDE++ says it’s supposed to support the production of sustainable energy. And CCS isn’t that entirely whereas if we are talking about large volumes of CO2, storage ais an option. But you have to be aware of a lock-in effect which is less the case with CCU. Therefore, we should stimulate companies to explore options of CCU and also buying products produced with CCU. The problem is that currently there is a lack of instruments that does this.
Therefore, I’m now working on a program called: Better conditions for CCU. And these conditions should be created by the government, because we need conditions to scale up the initiatives. Currently, the government likes what they see in terms of the initiatives but there aren’t any dedicated actions supporting these initiatives. With the program we try to answer questions like: What do we want with CCU in the Netherlands? How do we regard the reuse or the use usage utilization of carbon? What different categories we see in this fields and how do we want to subsidize this? What we need is an accounting system for CO2 in which we can see, this is what is happening with it and this is how we can improve it.
This also links to discussion on who gets the emission avoidance and who will get subsidies and discounts for saving CO2 of course.
Yes, that’s very difficult at this moment. As I said there is now discussion going on about how you can reward the CO2 to the greenhouses, but it’s absolutely clear now that’s the emitter gets a subsidy, so maybe the discount can go then to the user. What you say is interesting but also it should be a means of stimulation. If you get credits for what you do and bring them on the markets in an ETS or other system you get rewarded. That’s what I really hope to get in the coalition agreements. And mainly we need the accounting system to know where the CO2 goes and how much is reused.
There it also touches the source of CO2 right? When using biomass instead of fossil fuels.
Yes, we didn’t mention that yet. But for this purpose, the accounting system is necessary as well. When we know where the CO2 comes from and we can use as much green CO2 as possible, we’re really getting somewhere.
Definitely! If we look at those biogenic sources. What should happen there to accelerate the supply of these source?
First of all, the recognition of a negative emission. Not only in reports from the industry, but also from the government. And I know it’s difficult for the government because they know if the ministry of economic affairs and climate issue a paper on negative emissions there will be some backlash from parliament of people disagreeing on this. Because it might sometimes destroy forests or transportation is in the supply chain of it.
How would you try to accomplish what you want to accomplish with CCU while the political debate on biomass or CCS can be a bit tense?
Well, I think there are two sides. The political debate works in favor of CCU. When you compare to CCS. The more problematic thing is getting the negative emissions in. Also, you have burning biomass versus gasification and other new technologies which don’t add to the emissions like burning. And if we have those regulations in place, a lot of people don’t trust the industry to work according to those rules. But I think on the overall public debates, political debates are in favor of CCU, comparative CCS.
Lastly, is there something that the CO2 Smart Use community scan can help with?
We should work together. We should convey the message together and show government all the show cases, we already have to prove that a lot is happening. We should also tell them what we need to bring this further but also ask them how we can help them bring the policy and regulations forward
With what sectors are you now working on the better conditions for CCU program?
We work with gas companies, Sustainable Aviation Fuels, knowledge institutes, the greenhouses, waste to energy and also the chemical companies.
What if companies want to join your initiative?
They are very welcome to join! If so, they can send me an email on: firstname.lastname@example.org
We’d like to interview more inspiring organizations working to grow the CCU economy. Send an email to email@example.com if you’re interested.