Last July’s floods killed more than 200 people in Germany and Belgium. In Limburg people had to leave their homes in a hurry. When I saw the images, I wondered if this had anything to do with climate change. And if so, could that act as a nudge for this caretaker cabinet to take extra measures?
Meanwhile, the World Weather Attribution initiative (WWA) has answered my first question. The WWA is investigating whether there is a link between climate change and the four weather extremes cold, heat, precipitation and drought. It also examined heavy rainfall in Western Europe in July and came to the following conclusion.
“The heavy rainfall that caused severe flooding in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg last July has become more likely due to climate change. The probability and intensity of this heavy rainfall is greater due to climate change’, according to the KNMI, which participated in the study and is a partner of the WWA.
So yes, there is a relationship between climate change and the probability of heavy rainfall.
Then the second question. Despite its caretaker status, would this cabinet have felt even more compelled by the floods to announce additional measures on Budget Day to combat climate change? Two recent concrete examples show that this cabinet often needs a helping hand to keep to its agreements.
For example, there was an agreement to achieve 14 percent of our final consumption from renewable energy by 2020. This was an appointment in a European context. The Netherlands seemed to miss the target by far. The cabinet therefore used a trick and bought renewable energy from Denmark, a so-called statistical transfer in order to comply with the European agreement and thus avoid a fine.
Another recent example was the commitment that the Netherlands would emit 25 percent less greenhouse gases in 2020 compared to 1990. That target was also an agreement in a European context.
For a long time it looked like we weren’t going to achieve this goal. Urgenda went to court to enforce additional measures and was ultimately proved right before the Supreme Court. The cabinet then took action to comply with the verdict and announced additional measures.
Provisional figures from the RIVM now show that we have probably met our reduction target with the heels of the ditch, albeit partly because the lockdown measures have resulted in less traffic and therefore emissions.
Which brings me to Prinsjesdag. Because despite its caretaker state, the cabinet has earmarked extra billions to take climate measures. Perhaps it has learned lessons from the earlier side-board experiences after all.
Or would the floods have given just that extra push?