Minister plans help for farmers to quit, lower speed limits to solve nitrogen problem


The cabinet has outlined its initial plans to reduce the damage caused by nitrogen emissions in the wake of a Council of State ruling which has put thousands of building projects on hold.

The projects, including road and house building and factory farm extensions, have been stalled because they may increase the volume of damaging nitrogen emissions – mainly in the form of nitrous oxide or ammonia.

Now the government has announced its plans to head off the impact, following the publication of a report recommending cuts in the speed limit on some roads and measures to reduce factory farming.

Some speed limits in ‘vulnerable areas’ will be reduced to cut emissions, farm minister Carola Schouten told MPs in the briefing, and more will be done to encourage motorists to drive electric cars.

Construction projects will be checked on whether or not they will lead to an increase in emissions and licences must state what measures are being taken to reduce potential nitrogren problems. Companies may also be asked to compensate for any potential damage to the natural environment.

The proposals also include financial help for farmers who wish to close down their operations in vulnerable locations.

No magic wand

‘The solutions have to be found step by step,’ prime minister Mark Rutte said at Friday’s presentation. ‘There is no magic wand to solve the problem, but we are very aware of the urgency.’

Officials are now working out the plans in more details, in particular the way emissions are calculated and monitored, Schouten said.

Finalised plans will be presented to the cabinet in May next year.

Nitrogen emissions such as ammonia, nitrogen oxide and nitrous oxides contribute to particulate matter and acid rain, causing  respiratory problems as well as damage to crops, forests, water sources and buildings.

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