Port of Rotterdam looks beyond 2040

terminalThe Port of Rotterdam Authority has had the Club of Rome models applied to the port of Rotterdam: what do the expected increase in the world population, scarcity of raw materials, agricultural land and fossil fuels, etc. mean for the development of the port in the period up to 2100? The study suggests that there will be a turning point around 2040 and that the later society switches to sustainable means of production and consumption patterns, the greater the decline will be after 2040. Throughput will perhaps even halve in the second half of the century.

The Port of Rotterdam Authority has a tradition when it comes to making long-term plans. They are usually ‘limited’ to a time horizon of 15 to 20 years, because that is a period over which you can make reasonable predictions using the customary macro-economic models. The Port Authority drew up the Port Vision 2030 a few years ago, for example, with 2030 as the time horizon. The Club of Rome is one of the few organisations that works with calculation models which bring together the most important predictable factors for economic and societal developments (such as population size, food production, the environment, availability of raw materials and energy) on a global scale for the very long term.

 The Port Authority therefore asked the Club of Rome Climate Foundation to order IMSA Amsterdam to apply that model to the port of Rotterdam: what do the Club of Rome’s projections mean for the port of Rotterdam in terms of throughput and development in the period up to 2100? IMSA applied three different scenarios; one based on unchanged policy, one that relies on technological breakthroughs and one that combines technological progress with a change in behaviour on the part of the world population. This last scenario is the only one that does not predict a dramatic fall in throughput in Rotterdam.

Recommendations

If that last, desirable scenario is to be brought closer, one thing that is needed is a transition in the port of Rotterdam. IMSA states that the Port Authority has basically embarked on the right path, but that things need to be speeded up and that the Port Authority cannot do it alone. According to IMSA, the Port Authority must take action, both regionally and internationally, in conjunction with other parties, such as the business community. Internationally 1) all costs must be included with the use of raw materials (thus also the pollution), so that the use of raw materials becomes more expensive and reuse / recycling more attractive, 2) legislation must be passed that reduces the negative effects on the environment (for example a price for CO2 that makes the use of renewable energy more attractive, stricter environmental requirements for logistics and industry) and 3) raw materials must be put to the most high-grade use possible (only use something as fuel if other applications are not possible). Regionally, IMSA advocates that 1) people think in terms of energy systems (use of smart grids, hydrogen, alternative ways of achieving Rotterdam Climate Initiative goals), 2) biomass is only used to generate energy after more valuable constituents have been used and 3) a circular economy (closed loops) gets off the ground in Rotterdam.

Port Authority

The Port Authority recognises the need to set in motion a transition towards a more sustainable economy: less and more efficient use of raw materials, more renewable energy and closed loops. But this must be achievable (i.e. feasible) for businesses operating in a global economy. This means that the Port Authority has to focus primarily on increasing efficiency in the port area (e.g. by developing energy infrastructure in order to make use of residual heat from industry), on the discussion about international regulations to make sustainable production processes and energy generation appealing (e.g. about the too low price of CO2) and on ways of making Rotterdam an attractive location for biochemicals. All of these actions are described in the Port Vision 2030, and are even more urgent in the light of this report.

The Port of Rotterdam Authority is developing the port complex within the margins dictated by society. The Port of Rotterdam Authority must pay attention to the short, medium and (very) long term. It must consider the interests of individual companies and of society. It must take account of local interests, but also look at the global effect of activities.

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