Dutch businesses: We are not the 'big polluters'

Greenhouse gas emissions
Greenhouse gas emissions. (Photo: kodda/DepositPhotos)

The works councils of 17 large companies in the Netherlands are calling on politicians to be careful of what measures they implement to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. They worry about what effect a possible CO2 tax will have on the industry, they said in an open letter in the Volkskrant.

"In the worst case, these kinds of taxes will immediately put our factories in the red, our jobs will disappear and we will soon import steel, petrol or chemicals from countries that are less ambitious with measures in the area of climate and greenhouse gas emission reduction." According to the companies, tens of thousands of people work in the industry to produce steel, goods and energy that everyone in the Netherlands uses. 

The 17 companies all emit a lot of CO2. They say they therefore feel a great responsibility and have been working hard for years to decrease their emissions, spending billions of euros. Dutch industry has significantly reduced their greenhouse gas emissions since 1990, the companies write, while emissions from transport and electricity increased. The companies therefore find it unfair that they are considered to be the 'big polluters'. 

The letter is signed by the works councils of oil giants Esso, Shell and BP, chemical company Dow, steel company Tata Steel, synthetic fabrics manufacturer Indorama, and artificial fertilizer producer Oci Nitrogen, among others. 

Gideon Simmelink, member of the works council of ExxonMobil Nederland, told NOS that the Dutch industry is very efficient and has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 32 percent since the nineties. "It is fantastic that we have achieved this. And I am delighted that we have an industry in the Netherlands that make basic products that we all need", he said to the broadcaster. Simmelink calls on politicians not to be led by emotions, but by facts. "Who would build an efficient factory in the Netherlands if you have to invest extra for the climate and have to pay a CO2 tax on top of that?"

Environmental organization Natuur & Milieu regrets that the companies suggested that an ambitious climate policy will lead to increased unemployment. According to director Rob van Tilburg, this will not happen if a CO2 tax goes together with a subsidy scheme for sustainable solutions. "We have always said: return the revenues from a CO2 tax to companies so that they can apply clean technology and thus gain an advantage over the competition", he said to NOS.

The companies' argument that industry has already significantly reduced its emissions is also not true, Van Tilburg said. "The Netherlands is one of the slowest boys in the classroom in terms of sustainability. That we are in the lead is not supported by the facts."

According to a recent poll by I&O Research, two thirds of Dutch are convinced that humans are responsible for global warming. But the group that thinks their own actions can make a difference is much smaller. Some 60 percent of Dutch think that as long as large companies do not reduce their CO2 emissions, their own actions don't matter.

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