Council of State fillets cabinet climate policy: ‘Completely insufficient’

This is evident from the annual Climate and Energy Outlook of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL). This keeps track of whether we are on track to achieve the goals of the Climate Agreement. For the third year in a row, the answer is ‘no’.

Appearances are deceiving

The Dutch Climate Act includes two important targets: a 49 percent reduction in CO2 emissions in 2030 and a 95 percent reduction in 2050. The PBL report shows that we are on track to achieve a reduction of 38 to 48 percent by 2030.

You would think that is very close to the objectives, but appearances are deceiving. The PBL itself writes in so many words that it almost takes a miracle to get to 48 percent.

“In order to arrive at the maximum reduction effect in 2030, all controllable and non-controllable uncertainties must be favourable. In view of the unruly practice, this cannot be counted on in advance,” the PBL writes sparingly.

RvS: ‘Goals are out of sight’

The Council of State (RvS), which is also presenting an advice today, is a lot clearer. “The climate targets are out of sight,” writes the government’s main legislative adviser. The additional measures announced by the outgoing cabinet on Budget Day – and which the PBL has not yet taken into account in its report – are also not enough, according to the Council of State.

Because there are so many uncertainties in the calculations, the RvS assesses the cabinet’s plans at the lower end of the PBL’s bandwidth. So a reduction of 38 percent. Add to that the proposed policy and you are still a long way from there. “The maximum conceivable effect of the policy on the agenda is completely insufficient to achieve the target for 2030.”

Also good news

PBL’s lead researcher, Pieter Hamming, is a bit more cautious. According to him, there is ‘good news and less good news’. The good news is that compared to last year we have come a lot closer to the targets. And: “Industry is doing a lot better, just like in mobility.”

This is because the industry has introduced a CO2 tax since this year. One of the reasons that mobility is improving is the increasing number of electric cars.

But the other side of the coin is that hardly any steps are being taken in agriculture and making houses more sustainable is not going to work either. In the meantime, the PBL no longer believes that it will be possible to remove 1.5 million homes from gas.

Load of problems

So it’s high time to roll up your sleeves, says Ed Nijpels, who is the foreman of a committee that monitors whether the climate agreement is being implemented.

“A new cabinet has to make decisions. How are you going to help the built environment? How are you going to pay for mobility differently? How do you deal with farmers? There are a lot of problems and they require a political response,” says Nijpels. “What we are now waiting for is the politicians who say: we are going to arrange it this way.”

Do something now

Everyone agrees that political action is needed. But as far as the Council of State is concerned, not everything is just shifted to a new cabinet. “There is a climate crisis. This climate crisis is not something of the future, but has already started. As in the corona crisis, measures must therefore be taken immediately,” the Council writes.

“The fact that the cabinet is resigned does not release it (…) from its obligation to do what is necessary”, the Council of State continues. According to the institute, the cabinet is failing to do so.

“The cabinet must do what is necessary,” adds RvS member Marijke Vos. She also points to the responsibility of the House of Representatives, which has put climate policy on the back burner as long as there is no new cabinet. “Declaring climate policy controversial is not in line with the Climate Act.”

Vice-chairman of the Council of State, Thom de Graaf, denounces the passive attitude of politics. The succession of negative reports “should have awakened parliament and government long ago.”

Goals should even be raised

In addition, the climate targets from the Climate Act are already outdated. In the meantime, European targets have been set: by 2030, the entire EU must emit 55 percent less CO2. The Netherlands itself was one of the champions of a stricter climate target.

According to the Council of State, the law must therefore be amended. “The objectives in the Dutch Climate Act must be at least as ambitious as those in the European Climate Act.”

“For years, the Netherlands has championed a target of -55 percent by 2030 for the entire Union. It does not make sense to use a less ambitious target in its own Climate Act only for itself,” the Council writes.

Cabinet: ‘It’s up to the next cabinet’

The cabinet writes today that it also expects that additional measures will be needed in the coming years to keep the climate targets in sight. According to the government, the new EU rules are ‘expected to lead to an additional CO2 reduction’.

But the advice of the Council of State to take action now has been set aside. “Choices about this are up to the next cabinet.”

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