Provinces call for national government action on nitrogen


The 12 Dutch provinces have written to the caretaker government urging ministers to do more to cut nitrogen-based pollution in rural areas and saying they no longer want to be held responsible for most of the work, Trouw reported on Thursday.

Eighteen months ago, Christianne van der Wal, the minister charged with cutting nitrogen-based pollution, gave much of the responsibility to the provinces, saying they were best placed to act.

However, the provinces now say at least half of the reduction in nitrogen emissions must flow from national government policy, and that a centralised approach will be more effective.

“It is not that we are passing the buck,” Zuid-Holland provincial executive Berend Potjer told NOS radio. “But there is only so much you can do without national policy. In addition, we need money and powers to play a role on the provincial side.”

In December, Overijssel threatened to stop its efforts to reduce nitrogen emissions because of slow government processes. In particular, Van der Wal’s €24 billion nitrogen funding package has been delayed.

“We have been busy talking to farmers, nature groups, companies and other organisations to draw up plans,” Potjer said. “The plans are ready but we need money.”

The Netherlands is committed to reducing nitrogen emissions by 50% by 2030, but as yet it remains unclear how that will be achieved.

An additional problem could be the next cabinet. The four parties currently in talks do not see nitrogen as a priority and the far right PVV does not accept that there is a problem to start with.

In November it emerged that over 750 farmers have applied for inclusion in the government’s offer to buy them out and help reduce the nitrogen pollution problem.

But it is still not clear if the outgoing government’s plan can be put into practice and that farmers actually close down in return for cash

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