Farmers at a protest earlier this year at the Groningen Provincial House

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  • Barbara Terlingen

    Politics editor

  • emma jackson

    political reporter

  • Barbara Terlingen

    Politics editor

  • emma jackson

    political reporter

The cabinet is putting itself in a bind discussing dates during the nitrogen crisis, while no aggressive approach to nitrogen is foreseen. That’s what scientists tell NOS. The now emotionally charged year 2030 was much discussed in the more than 14 hour parliamentary debate this week, but they believe it has been given too central a place in the discussion. The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) also says that years are not that important for solving problems.

The CDA calls the year 2030 the “not to take” goal starting this week. Nitrogen targets must be reached in that year. Other parties in the coalition seem to want to stick with it. After a week of crisis consultations and a debate incomprehensible to many people, the question is: what should we do next? The coalition has put the discussion on hold for now. But what could letting go of 2030 mean?

Nature will not notice a year in law for years to come, say both the PBL and Professors Backes (Constitutional Law, Utrecht University) and De Vries (Environmental System Analysis, Wageningen University). In other words: something must be done as soon as possible. De Vries: “For forty years too much has been emitted. Restoring nature will take a long time.”

Meanwhile, three years later, apart from a few small measures like speed reduction on motorways and reorganization of pig farms, little has been done, the PBL sees.

There are billions available, but the fact that the government does not seem to be able to meet the targets by 2035, let alone 2030, is evident from the emissions calculations made by PBL and RIVM. Meeting the goal for 2030 is therefore risky, as the Planning Office has already warned, if firm measures are not linked to it: “Failure to meet the goals may affect confidence in the government.”

Those firm measures instead of focusing on dates: Professor Chris Backes is also in favor of this. He believes that action must now be taken quickly, especially in the case of vulnerable nature. That speed is not only important for nature restoration, but also to ensure that permits cannot be challenged.

The environmental organization MOB announced last month that it would challenge the permits of the so-called top taxpayers, mostly farmers, with the provinces. Under the PBL, provinces will need to be able to demonstrate in court that serious work is being done on substantiated nature measures for each individual Natura 2000 area. One year to achieve generic targets says little about the approach in an individual area and will not matter much. for a judge.

allowed state aid

According to the PBL, meeting overall nitrogen goals alone is not enough to get permits to get construction projects back on track. These aim to count the square meters below the “critical deposition value”, the maximum amount of emissions allowed in a given area. The nitrogen law needs to be further reviewed.

For example, complicated calculations are now required to obtain building permits. If nitrogen emissions per area decrease and nature demonstrably improves, low emission projects could be excluded from this procedure. For each area, an informed determination must be made of the maximum amount that can be issued.

Nitrogen has been the topic of discussion in the Netherlands for years. Not only in politics, but also with farmers, factories, etc. But what are they really talking about? What is nitrogen and why have many people seen it as a problem in recent years?

What is nitrogen and why is it a problem?

The scientists Backes and De Vries also believe that focusing on every square meter of our country is not a solution. If you really take action to buy the maximum chargers and reduce other emissions, many other projects can be shut down.

In order to reduce emissions, the Remkes Committee has repeatedly called for the purchase of the top chargers. Arrangements for this rest with the European Commission, which must assess whether there is a case of permissible state aid. The Netherlands will have to wait and see.

Good revenue model

But getting along with this is the only solution, according to De Vries. “Whatever year you put into a law, it needs to be done quickly now.” He advocates giving farmers emission targets per hectare or per animal, so that it is clear whether they are close or far from them.

If the goal is far away, investments in low-emission barns or fewer livestock may come into the picture. According to De Vries, this requires a good revenue model. “Only then will there really be movement and you can go a long way in eight to 10 years.”

If not enough farmers stop by of their own free will, buyout is important, says Chris Backes. If the purchase is ruled out, the Netherlands, nature and the economy will be “really behind 2-0”.

‘2030 in law provides direction’

So don’t get too focused on the 2030 discussions, is the advice of the scientists. But putting the year in the law, of course, can “give direction” or be a stick behind the door.

Meanwhile, Minister Van der Wal (Nitrogen) seems to be increasingly avoiding the year 2030. Asked if he still understands what the coalition parties want, he said on Thursday that he will now do his job “day by day”. . He did refer to the ‘calibration moments’ already proposed by Remkes in 2025 and 2028.