The Netherlands

   

Environmental Policies

#19
Key Findings
With a growing focus on climate-change and climate-adaptation policy, the Netherlands falls into the middle ranks internationally (rank 19) with regard to environmental policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.1 point since 2014.

The new government has a strong rhetorical commitment to green policy, but tangible results have been slow to emerge. A new climate agreement is being negotiated, and a court has ruled that the government’s failure to reduce CO2 emissions significant violates its human rights obligations.

Earthquake concerns have led to a decision to stop natural-gas production by 2030, and phase out household gas use by 2050. Sustainable agriculture is increasing as a public concern. Air and surface-water quality is poor in large part due to intensive farming and traffic congestion.

The government actively supports EU efforts in the development and advancement of global environmental regimes. Domestically, climate adaptation has taken priority over structural reforms.

Environment

#28

How effectively does environmental policy protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment?

10
 9

Environmental policy effectively protects, preserves and enhances the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
 8
 7
 6


Environmental policy largely protects and preserves the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
 5
 4
 3


Environmental policy insufficiently protects and preserves the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
 2
 1

Environmental policy has largely failed to protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
Environmental Policy
5
The new government has described itself “the greenest coalition” so far and put climate change on its political agenda. However, broad consultations about specific policies have not produced politically tangible results so far. Dutch businesses are reluctant to contribute without government subsidies and there is fear that if lower incomes will have to bear a disproportionately high burden for greening the economy, they will block efforts to achieve a workable consensus. Climate policy is largely focused on medium-term targets, for example 2020 or 2030. Before the Paris Accords, the Dutch government resisted more ambitious international climate goals. While the current government has started negotiating a new climate agreement (currently in the third round of negotiations), the government’s ambitions remain neatly within the boundaries of the Paris agreement with few specific policy measures to work with. In October, “Urgenda,” an environmental association, won a court appeal: the court issued a verdict stating that the government’s failure to reduce carbon dioxide significantly contradicts its human rights obligations. It remains to be seen how this verdict will influence government policies, domestically and abroad.

There is a clear policy shift toward climate adaptation. This appears manageable today because any adverse developments in the Netherlands will be gradual. The Netherlands’ natural-gas reserves have diminished rapidly and will necessitate gas imports from 2025 onward, despite decreasing demand. Meanwhile, earthquakes and soil subsidence are damaging houses in the northern provinces where the Dutch gas reserves are located. The government has introduced compensation measures for victims (still contested as too small). This led to the decision to stop gas production in the region by 2030. Consequently, all households are to be gas-free (for cooking and central heating) by 2050. Sustainable agriculture, particularly meat and dairy farming, is on the agenda and is gaining social support. Plastic is seen as a problem, but is dealt with largely at the municipal level, as a part of local recycling programs. A deposit paid by consumers on certain forms of packaging will eventually be introduced by 2021.

The quality of air and surface water in the Netherlands is poor, with intensive farming and traffic congestion the primary causes of concern, as well as soil salification of agricultural lands. Half of rivers, canals and lakes contain too much nitrogen and phosphates. Air pollution, especially particular matter in the region around Amsterdam, Rotterdam and the Hague, is among the highest in Europe, and the concentrations of ozone and nitrogen dioxide are linked to a very considerable amount of premature deaths.

Although the Netherlands is praised as a pioneer in the area of mapping and assessing ecosystems and their management, and on developing natural capital accounting systems, significant problems remain. The most serious problems involve habitat fragmentation and biodiversity loss, atmospheric nitrogen deposition, desiccation and acidification. Over the last 25 years, about 140 species inhabiting the North Sea have suffered a 30% decline, mainly due to recently forbidden commercial fishing techniques.

Citations:
The EU Environmental Implementation Review Country Report – THE NETHERLANDS, February 2017

Algemene Rekenkamer, Rapport Stimulering van duurzame energieproductie (SDE+). Haalbaarheid en betaalbaarheid van beleidsdoelen, 16 April 2015 (rekenkamer.nl, consulted 26 October 2015)

Algemene Rekenkamer, Enegie en Klimaat, factsheet # 18, 11-04-2017

Planbureau voor de leefomgeving, Aanpassen aan klimaatverandering – Kwetsbaarheden zien, kansen grijpen, 24-03-2015

Hekkenberg, M., R. Koelemeijer, Analyse van het voorstel voor hoofdlijnen van het klimaatakkoord, PBL, Den Haag, 28-09-2018

https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2017/10/30/cbs-30-procent-minder-zeedieren-in-noordzee-a1579244 (consulted 2 november 2017)

“De rechter verplichtte de staat tot meer klimaatactie. Wat is er met het vonnis gebeurd?,” Jelmer Mommers, in De Correspondent, 17 September 2015.

Urgenda wint hoger beroep klimaatzaak, http://news.smart.pr/urgenda/persbericht-urgenda-wint-hoger-beroep-klimaatzaak, October 2018

WRR-Policy Brief 5, Klimaatbeleid voor de lange termijn: van vrijblijvend naar verankerd, October 2016
Ecofys, De impact van de Nationale Klimaattop 2016 in kaart, 26 October 2016

Planbureau voor de Leefomgeving, Balans van de leefomgeving 2018, http://news.smart.pr/urgenda/persbericht-urgenda-wint-hoger-beroep-klimaatzaak

Raad voor de leefomgeving en infrastructuur, Duurzaam en gezond. Samen naar een houdbaar voedselsysteem. Maart 2018

https://www.deltacommissaris.nl/deltaprogramma/gebieden-en-generieke-themas/veiligheid

Global Environmental Protection

#12

To what extent does the government actively contribute to the design and advancement of global environmental protection regimes?

10
 9

The government actively contributes to international efforts to design and advance global environmental protection regimes. In most cases, it demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, fosters their advancement and initiates appropriate reforms.
 8
 7
 6


The government contributes to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes. It demonstrates commitment to existing regimes and occasionally fosters their advancement or initiates appropriate reforms.
 5
 4
 3


The government demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, but neither fosters their advancement nor initiates appropriate reforms.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes.
Global Environmental Policy
6
The Dutch government has traditionally been a strong supporter of EU leadership in the Kyoto process of global climate policy and advancing global environmental protection regimes. It has also signed related international treaties on safety, food security, energy and international justice. The government keeps aspiring to a coherent sustainability policy or a “policy agenda for globalization.” The government sees resource and energy scarcity, transborder disease control, climate change, transborder crime and international trade agreements as the great global issues.

As an immediate response, climate change is addressed mainly as a mitigation effort, for example, through the Dutch Risk Reduction Team, offering assistance and expertise to water-related risk areas around the globe. A coherent globalization policy also means research and monitoring of the undermining impacts of one policy on other policies. In spite of this intention, Dutch reassessment of development aid appears to favor bilateral over multilateral global sustainability policy. For example, the financing of Dutch initiatives in advancing global public goods is no longer separately budgeted but is instead part of the diminishing development aid budget.

Military aspects have been added to the International Safety Budget, which previously contained only diplomatic and civic activities. Defense spending in response to the revival of NATO in Europe and the threats in the Middle East will increase from €220 million to €345 million between 2016 and 2020. As mentioned under the previous indicator (P15.1, the Paris Climate Accords have triggered major new Dutch policy initiatives for global environmental protection.

Citations:
Kabinetsreactie op het WRR-rapport: Minder pretentie, meer ambitie (2010) (www.eerstekamer.nl/id/vimdknvvxtfz/document-extern/briefmp110112)

Additional reference:
http://www.aiv-advies.nl/ContentSuite/upload/aiv/file/webversie_AIV%2084_NL.pdf

Rijksbegroting 2016 Defensie (rijksoverheid.nl, consulted 8 November 2016)
https://www.rvo.nl/subsidies-regelingen/dutch-risk-reduction-team-drr-team
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