Advisory Board slams gov't nitrogen target; seeks 50% cut by 2030
The cabinet's nitrogen emission reduction target is not ambitious enough and risks repeating the same mistakes of the past, a new report by the Nitrogen Problems Advisory Board contested on Monday. Spearheaded by longtime VVD politician Johan Remkes, the current interim mayor of The Hague, the report insists that the government slash nitrogen emissions by 50 percent by 2030, almost double its current target of 26 percent.
Remkes voiced strong criticism of the government's current nitrogen policy, the Nitrogen Approach Program (PAS), which went into force in 2015 to reduce nitrogen emissions and protect nature protection areas. A 50 percent reduction "is not only a requirement to achieve nature protection goals, but is also necessary to improve the possibilities for granting permission for economic activities," argued Remkes in a letter to Minister of Agriculture Carola Schouten.
"It is a defiant social challenge to sustainably restore the balance between nature and economic development," he added.
In addition to changing overarching policy, Remkes also advised that the cabinet pursue region-specific policies, which would see different parts of the Netherlands subject to different requirements. According to Remkes, the rationale is that "not everything is possible everywhere".
At the same time, Remkes also urged the government to set up a 5 billion euro fund in order to buy out companies that will inevitably be hardest hit by the stricter nitrogen emission obligations, most notably companies in the agricultural sector. According to him, such a fund should be effective until 2040, and should also be used to restore nature reserves in the Netherlands.
"The greatest effort must come from agriculture, which is responsible for more than 40 percent of the nitrogen emissions in the form of ammonia," Remkes contested. He also argued that the government needs to implement clearer rules for that sector.
The scheme proposes that the Dutch government designate a greater number of nature reserves as part of Natura 2000, the EU's patchwork of nature protection areas. "If that succeeds, nature could have recovered in 2050," said Remkes.