Netherlands to be nearly emission free by 2050; Environmental groups unimpressed

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Henk Kamp (Photo: Rijksoverheid.nl/Wikimedia Commons). (Henk Kamp (Photo: Rijksoverheid.nl/Wikimedia Commons))

The government wants the Netherlands to be nearly CO2 emissions free by 2050, according to Economic Minister Henk Kamp's Energy Agenda. The Agenda contains a number of measures to reduce dependency on fossil fuels and encourage sustainable living. Environmental organizations call the plan unambitious, NU.nl reports.

The government aims to reduce the demand for energy with energy cuts and promote the use of renewable electricity and renewable heat, by among other things, expanding the number of offshore wind farms. The legal requirement to be connected to the gas network is being scrapped and new gas networks will no longer be automatically installed with new housing developments. This is intended to reduce the use of gas. 

By 2035 the government wants only sustainable cars sold in the Netherlands. The railway sector also needs to switch to green power and all buses in public transport must be using renewable energy or biofuel by 2025. There will also be more investments in bicycle connections and parking to make cycling a more attractive option. And road haulers and the aviation sector are expected to switch to more sustainable fuels. 

Production processes in the industry will be changed to reduce CO2 emissions, and the emissions that do occur will be stored in depleted gas fields in the North Sea. And consumers will be encouraged to generate and store their own energy, which they can sell or use at a later point.

"The transition to a low-CO2 energy supply has definitely started, there is no turning back", Kamp said. "We must realize that the shift to a low-CO2 economy requires large investments." The government is working on policies that will ensure that the shift to sustainable energy outweigh the costs, while staying affordable for citizens. "The cost savings made by offshore wind already show that this is possible", according to the Minister.

The government ordered more research into the cost of shifting to green energy, the results of which are expected in mid next year. This means that the next government will have to continue with these plans. "Companies and local governments need certainty so that they can coordinate their plans. Next cabinets will have a lot of work to do, but we are laying the foundation on which they will be able to continue", Kamp said. He promised to work with involved parties to make agreements over expanding the policy.

Environmental organizations are unimpressed with these plans, calling them unambitious. Mileudefensie, the Dutch Friends of the Earth, is pleasantly surprised by the steps to make residential areas gas-free, but finds that 2050 is way too late for that. Natuur & Milieu called it a "meager energy agenda containing too few building blocks to tackle climate change effectively". Greenpeace thinks Kamp is going in a "good direction, but the how of it lacks." The organizations all agree that the agenda lacks concrete goals for energy conservation, renewable energy and a higher CO2 price.

The PvdA called the agenda a "story without ambition", according to NU.nl. The party thinks Kamp is not reducing carbon dioxide emissions fast enough. For example, the deadline to stop selling cars that run on fossil fuels should be 2025 instead of 2035, according to the party. 

D66 parliamentarian Stientje van Veldhoven said that there is "a big hole" in Kamp's plans. "The closure of coal plants is the cheapest and smartest way to reduce CO2 emissions", she said to the newspaper. According to her, without closing the coal plants, it is impossible to reduce CO2 emissions effectively. She also called the plan "without ambition" in the field of electric vehicles. 

The PvdA and D66 recently submitted a in the Netherlands. 

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