Will ‘climate agreement’ survive in the Netherlands?
After more than 9 months of negotiations, there finally is a draft for a climate agreement in the Netherlands, but nobody knows if it will last…
The draft contains 233 pages and some 600 recommendations. With this draft, the Rutte III government (VVD, CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie) has secured its survival for the moment. The result, however, is also that the environmental organizations have withdrawn their support and that the political opposition is very harsh.
The government is most afraid for the critics from the parties on the right. Predictions say that more and more people will drive electrically and that will cost the state 3,9 billion euro (loss of excises on petrol and diesel). That has to be compensated by new or heightened taxes and Rutte’s own liberal party is so scared about this that it’s thinking of increasing the just installed flight tax of 7 euro per person to 15 euro.
Most important measures
The most important measures on the transport side are that from 2030 onward no ICE (internal combustion engine) cars can’t be sold anymore. People who buy a zero emission car pay no taxes until 2025 and far less than other car owners the years after. Apart from that, they get a purchase premium for ‘cheaper’ cars (40 to 60.000 euro), from 6.000 euro in 2021 decreasing to 2.200 euro in 2030. A subsidy rule for company cars is still under investigation.
Who has to pay for this? The owners of classic, fossil fuel-driven cars (higher taxes and excises) and all car owners (‘innovation premium’ of 25 euro per year). The latter can be abolished if the just installed flight tax (already mentioned above) is increased from 7 to 15 euro per flight.
For building greener houses there will be subsidies or low cost loans, the taxes on gas will rise, while these on electricity will decrease. The aim is that in 2030 already 1,5 million houses don’t have central heating anymore on fossil fuels and relay on heat pumps or other alternatives.
In the industry the big emitters of CO2 (more than 10 kilotons of CO2 per year, some 350 companies), have to realize a CO2 reduction plan before 2020 and will be fined if they are not able to realize it. To materialize the plans, the state will also provide subsidies. Also for sustainable innovation there are subsidies available.
One of the most violent critics of the agreement is Rick van der Ploeg, professor at Oxford University and former state secretary. “This is disastrous governing”, he says. “Instead of punishing adequately the companies which aren’t realizing their ‘green plans’, now you get an amalgam of subsidies and eventual fines that is much too complicated.”
“I can understand that environmental organizations and unions don’t want to collaborate on this”, he continues. “It will be very difficult to control, and you open the door for all kinds of lobbying. That’s why I advised to install a CO2 tax for the big polluters. Now the big companies will get subsidies and in the end the small tax payer will pay the bill.”
He concludes: “This approach is in no way stimulating companies that want to innovate or be more competitive. It is business as usual and the government creates an enormous subsidy machine and a huge bureaucracy. I can’t understand that a liberal party like the VVD supports such an old-fashioned ‘communist’ policy.
Then there are these parties, which have climate scepticism in their core values. Geert Wilders from PVV as well as Thierry Baudet from Forum voor Democratie are shooting from the hip: “the VVD (biggest government party, liberal) wants to prohibit driving for the common citizen, this is really nuts”, exclaims Wilders, while Baudet says: “they’ve really gone mad, unbelievable that they still have people who vote for them.”
It makes the governmental parties even more scared than they already were. Sybrand Buma (CDA, christen-democrat) is afraid for a civil revolution if climate costs are rising too high, the liberal VVD still claims that environmental objectives can be postponed if there is no large social agreement.
Some also argue that if the rest of Europe has 40% CO2 reduction in 2030 as a target, the Netherlands don’t need to be “best in class” with 49%, at a high cost. Prime Minister, Rutte, and Climate Minister, Wiebes, on the other hand claim that this is a purely theoretical discussion: “what we really want is to go even further, to 55%”, they say.
The next months will tell if this ardour will remain intact. Meanwhile, a parliamentary voting on the entire agreement is not foreseen. There will only be votes on separate parts of it. In the hope that the opposition on the left will then feel forced to support small, concrete steps toward a greener society.