September 19, 2023

Agriculture Sector Nitrogen Targets Could Be Lower (Ministry of Finance)

If the Netherlands achieves its climate targets, farmers will have to reduce their nitrogen emissions much less than previously thought, NRC reports based on calculations by the Ministry of Finance. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions will also reduce nitrogen emissions. And additional nitrogen gains from climate policy were not included in the nitrogen plans, according to the newspaper.

In June, the Cabinet presented a map showing how much nitrogen emissions need to fall by region to ensure that three-quarters of nitrogen-sensitive natural areas are healthy again by 2030. Some provinces must cut their emissions in half. Regions around nature reserves must reduce their emissions by 95%.

But the nitrogen gain from meeting climate targets – reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 – is not included in this map. The Cabinet only included the reduction already achieved, not the future profit. Increasing electric driving, closing coal-fired power plants and reducing CO2 emissions from factories will also lead to a considerable reduction in nitrogen emissions.

When last measured, less than half of the nitrogen-sensitive natural areas in the Netherlands were below the critical deposition value – the nitrogen limit considered healthy for nature. According to new calculations by the Ministry of Finance, if the Netherlands achieves its climate targets, the percentage of healthy natural areas will increase significantly without any further nitrogen policies. This means the government can reduce nitrogen targets for agriculture by 25-50% and still achieve 75% healthy natural areas by 2030, according to the newspaper.

An essential condition for this is that the Netherlands actually achieves its climate goals. At the end of 2021, the country was lagging behind.

The new calculations by the Ministry of Finance give a boost to farmers, who have been protesting for weeks because they believe the nitrogen plans are too hard for them. According to them, the government focuses too much on farmers and too little on other nitrogen-emitting sectors. According to research agency TNO, around 60% of the Netherlands’ nitrogen emissions come from agriculture.

In defense of the Cabinet on this point, farmers have been largely spared in other climate measures. In the 2019 climate deal, energy supply and industry faced the biggest challenges, with agriculture’s contribution being much smaller.