Crisis helps comply with Urgenda verdict

October 21, 2021 by No Comments

The corona crisis gives the cabinet a year more time to meet the Urgenda requirement, the CO . falls so sharply2emissions from the recession. That was never the intention when the judge ruled in the groundbreaking climate case in 2015, but it is the practice. Due to the Urgenda ruling, the cabinet announced on Friday a package of measures that should ensure lasting climate gains as soon as the effect of the crisis subsides by 2021.

For example, by the end of 2020 greenhouse gas emissions will be 25 percent less than in the benchmark year 1990, the government expects. Minister Eric Wiebes (Economic Affairs and Climate, VVD) explicitly wrote on Friday that those improvements must be ‘structural’. “Even in 2021 and the years after that”, emissions must remain so low.

An ’emission cap’ for three of the four coal-fired power stations is the most drastic decision. As a result, the coal-fired power stations in Eemshaven and on the Maasvlakte, which were opened in 2015 and 2016, will largely be shut down from next year. According to recent calculations, the power stations would then operate at only 25 percent of their capacity. Wiebes said in an explanation on Friday that the ceiling will be laid down by law.

Old refrigerators

In addition, the cabinet is implementing a series of other greening measures, particularly in industry, agriculture and in cities and villages. In this way, making rented houses more sustainable is stimulated more. There will also be a return premium for old refrigerators. Some of the measures, especially those in agriculture, also reduce nitrogen emissions. Most of the measures will come into effect in 2021.

The corona crisis now offers the cabinet a way out of a situation that seemed unsolvable two months ago. In December the verdict was confirmed by the Supreme Court, while this and the previous cabinet had only taken limited measures at the time.

Environmental groups reacted mostly positively to the plans on Friday. “I think we should be happy that the cabinet is trying to uphold the rule of law, this is a very big step,” says Urgenda director Marjan Minnesma. “The downward trend is started by these measures.” Greenpeace called the package “good news” in a press release, but believes that the coal-fired power stations should have been closed.

According to the cabinet, the costs of the measures that have now been announced are “substantial”. The owners of the three coal-fired power stations (the German companies Onyx, RWE and Uniper) can count on ‘appropriate compensation’ for their lost income. Incidentally, one of those power stations, that of Onyx on the Maasvlakte, has been seriously defective since January.

The cabinet is not making any extra government money available for climate measures. Minister Wiebes said in an explanation on Friday that the package of measures “will not cost SMEs and households extra money, but will give them a helping hand”, such as through a lower energy bill.

Reduction of 11 million tons

According to the cabinet, these new measures, plus several previous interventions, will result in a structural reduction in emissions of more than 11 million tons of greenhouse gases. Whether that is realistic is difficult to say. None of these plans has been calculated by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL).

In December, the PBL estimated that the government would have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 to 11 million tons by 2020 in order to meet the judge’s requirement with any probability. There was then so little time left that in a normal economy with a normal legislative process it seemed impossible to intervene in time. Against the closure of several coal-fired power stations, an intervention that, according to research agency CE Delft, is good for 9 million tons less CO2Minister Wiebes had always resisted.

However, the current dramatic economic situation is still leading to climate gains in that order of magnitude, according to an analysis published by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency on Friday. A severe economic crisis in which GDP shrinks by 5 percent in 2020 will lead to 13 to 15 million tons less emissions, according to a first, very uncertain estimate by the PBL. The International Monetary Fund is already taking into account a contraction of 7.5 percent for the Netherlands.

“As soon as we have more knowledge about the corona crisis, we can take another look at the scope of the measures,” said Wiebes. The cabinet will do this in the autumn.