The Netherlands reaches climate target, but luck played a major role


The Netherlands has reached climate targets imposed by the courts in the Urgenda ruling, but the decline is more down to luck than policy, campaign groups say.

In 2019, the Supreme Court ordered the Netherlands to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25.5% in 2020 when compared with 1990 and this target has been reached, according to calculations by national statistics office CBS and public health institute RIVM.

In total, 2020’s emissions were down 8.8% on 2019, the figures show. This was largely due to a reduction in the use of coal in power stations. It was also a relatively warm year and that means less gas was used for heating.

The coronavirus pandemic had a limited effect. Although emissions by industry remained virtually unchanged, traffic produced 15% less pollution as people heeded government advice to work at home, the CBS said.

Environmental organisation Urgenda, which piloted the court case through the courts, said in a reaction that the government had been lucky in ‘fortuitous circumstances’.

‘Chance is not policy and that means emissions will not fall any further in the coming years,’ the campaign group said.

‘In addition, 25% is far from enough. The 25% reduction in emissions imposed by the court was the absolute minimum that industrial countries such as the Netherlands need do to keep global warming below two degrees.’

The government’s own target is for a 49% reduction in emissions by 2030, but the new cabinet is planning to increase that to 55%.

Preliminary figures from 2021 indicate that in the first nine months of the year, greenhouse gas emissions were up 3% on 2020. The fourth quarter figures will be published in mid March.

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