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Employers will soon have to keep track of the CO2 emissions of traveling employees

This article was originally published on the website of Het Financieele Dagblad

To achieve climate goals, the government wants large employers to keep track of their employees’ commuting and business travel emissions. Companies fear additional tax burdens. “What a worthless new measure this is.”

In brief

  • Employers must measure the emissions of work-related traffic.
  • This can lead to employees having to tell which car they are driving.
  • There is a good chance that a new cabinet will agree to the climate measure.
  • Until 2030, the emissions from work traffic must fall by 1 million tons of CO₂.

Employers will soon have to keep track of the CO₂ emissions of traveling employees.

A new climate measure requires large employers to measure the CO₂ emissions caused by employees traveling to and from work.

The new cabinet wants to map these emissions and set standards in order to achieve climate goals. Additional paperwork threatens employers.

It will lead to companies with more than 100 employees having to keep track of how an employee travels: by public transport, by bicycle or by car. It may also be necessary to find out what kind of car the employee travels in, as not every car has the same CO₂ emissions.

The scheme should actually have taken effect on 1 January 2022, but because the cabinet formation has taken so long, the new government has not yet been able to agree to it. It is expected that Rutte IV will soon agree, because achieving the new tightened climate target of 60% fewer greenhouse gases in 2030 requires a lot of CO₂ reduction.

With more than 100 employees

The scheme affects about seven thousand companies, but few seem to be aware of the new measure. Bovag, the trade association of car dealers, fears an additional burden for companies. ‘What is the actual effect of this measure? Will emissions drop as a result? As an employer you have to keep track of a lot, so let’s first investigate whether this is effective, “says a spokesperson.

The agreement follows from the Climate Agreement concluded in 2019, which contains measures to reduce CO₂ emissions in the Netherlands. Travel to and from work (commuting) and travel that an employee has to make for the boss (business travel) are responsible for almost half of all mobility emissions in the Netherlands. In 2019, before working from home became normal due to corona, the mobility sector emitted 35 million tons of CO₂, almost 20% of the total emissions that year, according to figures from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.

For the first few years, companies only have to measure emissions, but from 2026 the cabinet wants to impose a standard for CO₂ emissions for business travel. This should lead to more travel by train, bus, bicycle and electric cars. A standard for commuter traffic may follow later, according to the draft text of the regulation. Regional environmental services must check companies on this. The question is whether that will succeed, because the services have previously failed to enforce climate measures for companies, the FD wrote in 2019.

Badly prepared

Employers’ organization VNO-NCW is ‘constructive’ towards the scheme, although it may not violate the privacy of employees or lead to a great administrative burden for employers, a spokesperson said.

Hugo Houppermans, director of Anders Reizen, thinks that companies are ill-prepared. ‘Many employers do not yet feel responsible for monitoring and reducing employees’ traffic emissions, but they still have an important role to play in this’.

Houppermans leads a collaboration of seventy large employers, including pension fund PGB and insurer ASR, who already have a sustainable mobility policy. He believes that it is feasible for employers to map out how an employee travels for work and how much emissions that causes, by including data about the mode of travel when someone declares their travel expenses. The easiest way is to let employees indicate which means of transport they are coming with, but for reasons of privacy, an employer can also calculate with averages from the Central Bureau of Statistics, says Houppermans.

Bovag thinks that the measure is not feasible. “We have also signed the Climate Agreement, but a climate measure must be workable and it is not currently,” says a spokesperson. Serge van den Berg, founder of Fynch Mobility, a software company that keeps track of employee journeys for employers, notices irritation: ‘Many companies think: what kind of worthless new measure is this, do I have to keep track of all kinds of data and provide it’.

Ensure privacy

What is certain is that companies will have to keep track of actual journeys made by employees in order to be able to implement this measure. Another factor is that from next year employers will no longer be allowed to provide tax-free travel allowance for a home working day, as determined by the previous cabinet due to the corona crisis. This means that fixed travel allowances will no longer apply to many employees.

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