Tuesday 20 August 2019

Climate change plans ‘a first step but not definitive’, says minister

Demonstrators for climate change in Amsterdam

The climate agreement which is due to be presented on Friday afternoon is ‘not definitive’ but an ‘important first step’, environment minister Eric Wiebes has told broadcaster NOS.

The plans drawn up in five separate discussion groups first have to be studied by the Dutch Environmental Assessment Agency and only then will the cabinet decide which of the measures will actually be adopted, he said.

The aim of the agreements is to cut carbon-dioxide emissions by 49% by 2030, compared with 1990. The measures so far agreed include the highly controversial scheme to phase out the use of natural gas in private homes, higher taxes on industrial carbon emissions and phasing out the sale of non-electric cars.

In particular, the cabinet will look closely at the impact of the measures on income. ‘If people are going to be faced with high costs and investments, then we have a problem,’ he said. ‘Everyone has to be able to participate.’

The plan to scrap the use of natural gas in particular has been criticised for the expense. The government has already decided that no new homes should be connected to the gas grid.

‘A lot has to happen between now and 2030,’ the minister said. ‘And if things don’t work, then we will repair them.’

Carbon tax

On Thursday it emerged that Dutch environmental organisations do not support the final agreements because a carbon dioxide emission tax is not going to be part of the deal.

The green groups are said to be furious that a CO2 tax has been ruled out. Instead, companies which do not have proper sustainability plans in place will face fines – which, the environmental organisations say, are not high enough to properly act as a deterrent.

Companies and the ruling VVD and CDA oppose a CO2 tax because, they say, it would hurt the Netherlands’ competitive position.

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