Cabinet ready to buy out peak nitrogen emitters for 120% of the company's value
The Cabinet will actively approach about 3,000 companies that emit a large quantity of nitrogen with an offer to stop their activities, or to become more sustainable. The amount they can receive from a buyout can amount to 120 percent of the value of their company. Sources close to the Cabinet confirmed this after reporting by AD and De Telegraaf.
The regulation stems from the advice from politician Johan Remkes, who last summer acted as a mediator in the heated conflict between the Cabinet and a large part of the agricultural sector. Among his recommendations, Remkes advised tackling the emissions of the 500 to 600 largest peak nitrogen emitters within a year.
Most are farms, but there are also industrial companies. To be eligible for such a scheme, companies would not necessarily have to close their doors completely; Far-reaching sustainability modifications, or relocation to a place further away from vulnerable nature areas are also possible.
The scheme is intended to provide nitrogen space to give more room for some companies to legally carry out their work, companies which have come under pressure due to a ruling by the Council of State in May 2019. The highest administrative court called an end to a licensing policy, and as a result, thousands of companies suddenly needed to obtain permits which were not necessary before. Freeing up space for other companies to emit nitrogen can help smooth out permitting for construction and infrastructure projects.
Making sure the decision is voluntary is the most important thing, said farmers' activist groups Farmers Defense Force (FDF) and Agractie. Bart Kemp the chair of Agractie, said that he had a "constructive conversation" with the Cabinet members involved on Tuesday, specifically Christianne van der Wal (Nature and Nitrogen), Piet Adema (Agriculture) and Mark Harbers (Infrastructure and Water Management).
"We have made progress in terms of both process and content and it was about time," Kemp said in his first response. He is "not being negative in advance" about the plans, although he is awaiting the details. Kemp is, however, critical of the possibility that the Cabinet will impose stricter environmental requirements on farmers who still want to continue. "We are staunchly against any form of coercion," he emphasized.
FDF questioned the way in which it is determined which companies are considered peak emitters. According to the action group, "crooked assumptions" have been made about this.
Johan Vollenbroek of environmental group MOB called it "good in principle" if the Cabinet takes steps to reduce the amount of livestock. "The question is whether it's enough." Another question is whether this approach can count on approval from the European Commission, warns Vollenbroek.
"Will bought-out farmers get a professional ban? Because Brussels will not accept that they are bought out here with a lot of money if they then buy a large farm in eastern Germany to continue."