Minister Van der Wal (second from right) explains her policy. Photo: Stadszaken.nl
The Netherlands does not have time to discuss in depth all the developments concerning nature and nitrogen. The urgency is too great for that. This was stated by Minister Van der Wal for Nature and Nitrogen at the NOVI conference in Nieuwegein. On June 10, it will publish a map with objectives by N2000 zone. “When you see the impact of this… It’s going to be really intense!”
In the past three years, the foundations have been laid with the Nitrogen Reduction and Nature Enhancement Act and source measures. “Now we have to accelerate extremely to create this space for development,” Minister Van der Wal told her audience of politicians and officials involved in the region’s development. With a wink: ‘Of course with a top speed of 100 km/h.’
The map presented by the Minister on June 10 shows a few dozen areas where it turns dark red. This is where the urgency is greatest. Provinces have until July 1, 2023 to determine targets. Incredibly fast. This is why it also emphasizes well-being and volunteering. “A farmer who wants to quit provides space immediately, while expropriation takes years of legal proceedings.”
Because the mission is there: nature must make great progress. A difference from a few years ago, she says. “On May 29, 2019, our approach was brutally disrupted by a court decision. You can only grant permits if you actually reduce nitrogen emissions and restore nature. We did not keep our promise at the time. This made this statement painfully clear.
Integrated approach for more tasks
The approach should be different, but in such a way that other tasks are also included. Where Belgium intervenes strongly for nitrogen reduction alone, the minister wants to look further for the Netherlands. In addition to the nitrogen approach, the Water Framework Directive and the task of being climate neutral by 2050 also play a role.
Doesn’t this integrated approach make it more complex? “Not at all,” she said. “It is good to realize that 46% of nitrogen emissions come from the agricultural sector. So the measures have an incredible impact on this sector,” the minister said. That’s why she doesn’t want to focus only on nitrogen. “Then we will now take painful steps for the agricultural sector and then be on the farm in a few years with more directives. We want to prevent this.
Collaborate at all levels
This integrated approach only works if there is cooperation at all levels. She herself, for example, works closely with the Minister of Housing and Spatial Planning, De Jonge. ‘Hugo supports space.’ Van der Wal is part of the national program for rural areas.
Together they direct water and life. “Truly an area-based approach to nitrogen and nature restoration, where we also use that as guiding principles. In which we really make choices to avoid doing the wrong things in the wrong place”, according to the minister. “So we’re also looking down.”
Van der Wal wants everyone to be included in the process. “The advantage of this approach is that it is truly bottom-up. With climate, you can deploy generic goals, but if you look at nitrogen and nature, every area is different,” she said. “That’s the strength of the zone-based approach.”
Farmers must be closely involved. “You want them to think for themselves from their own point of view. I’m very into the “what”. I think we should leave the “how” in the domains themselves. At the same time, we have to be clear that we have areas in the Netherlands where the state of nature is so dark red that we don’t have years of time for area processes. That’s why she’ll step in if it’s not fast enough. ‘Not nice, but we have no choice. We must continue’.
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