Car-free Sundays, 100 km/h highway speed limits among plans against nitrogen emissions: report

100 kilometers per hour speed limit sign
100 kilometers per hour speed limit signPhoto: zharate1/DepositPhotos

The Dutch government is currently investigating a list of around 20 unorthodox and unpopular measures for reducing nitrogen emissions in the Netherlands. These measures include banning car traffic on one Sunday a month, and lowering the speed limit on all highways to 100 kilometers per hour, AD reports based on sources in The Hague.

These unorthodox measures were suggested by officials and political parties. The government is calculating how much nitrogen room they create. The expectation is that at least one or two of these measures will be implemented, so that housing projects currently halted by the nitrogen crisis can start up again. What measures will be implemented will be announced on Friday, according to the newspaper's sources.

The idea for a monthly car-free Sunday was proposed by coalition party ChristenUnie and opposition party GroenLinks. One source told AD that this measure will yield around 2 moles of nitrogen per hectare per year. 

While ChristenUnie is in favor of a monthly car-free Sunday, the other coalition parties are much less enthusiastic about it. Last month Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen of Infrastructure said that she is not in favor of banning people from driving their cars on certain days. 

Another measure being seriously considered is reducing the speed limit on all highways to 100 kilometers per hour. A preliminary calculation by public health and environment institute RIVM showed that this will reduce nitrogen emissions enough to build 75 thousand homes in 2020, according to the newspaper.

This measure too is unpopular, especially within ruling party VVD. Though Prime Minister Mark Rutte and VVD leader Klaas Dijkhoff both said that they would consider any measure, if it means saving the construction industry. AD's coalition sources said that the chance is very small that all speed limits will be lowered, but the number of highways where you can drive 130 kilometers per hour is expected to drop significantly. 

A survey by Maurice de Hond on recently showed that the majority of Dutch people would support a speed limit reduction. Of all voters, 52 percent are for lowering speed limits to 100 kilometers per hour on highways, and 42 percent are against. Among VVD voters, 27 percent are for this measure, among CDA voters it's 39 percent, and among D66 voters no less than 89 percent.