Thursday 17 October 2019

Cut speed limits and reduce livestock farming to solve nitrogen crisis: report

Pigs on a factory farm. Photo: Depositphotos

The Netherlands needs to take ‘drastic measures’ by reducing speed limits and livestock farming to cut nitrogen emissions and protect vulnerable parts of the countryside, according to a government commission set up to look at the crisis.

A Council of State ruling earlier this year has led to an estimated 18,000 infrastructure and other projects being stalled because they would increase the volume of damaging nitrogen emissions – mainly in the form of nitrous oxide or ammonia.

The current way of calculating emissions does conflict with the law, committee chairman Johan Remkes said at the presentation on Wednesday. He suggested that the speed limit on many motorways and provincial roads be reduced immediately to cut traffic pollution, and that officials do more to tackle congestion.

But the primary target, he said, is livestock farming because pig and poultry farms account for 46% of the nitrogen in rural areas. Provincial governments, he said, should look at which farms could be eligible to be bought out and closed.

In addition, farms should be quicker to introduce technological innovations to reduce manure emissions, he said.

Criticism

Environmental groups described the former minister’s plans as ‘unambitious’ but most political parties accepted the recommendations with praise.

Green campaigner Johan Vollenbroek, who took the original case to the Council of State, told broadcaster NOS much more could be done.

Reducing air traffic, banning mega pig farms, closing coal-fired power stations and stopping using biomass to produce electricity would all contribute to cutting back emissions, he said.

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