THE HAGUE – Climate investments survive historically high budget deficit

The Dutch government announced €5 billion worth of climate investments until 2030, despite a historically high 11.8% budget deficit for this year.

Recent government expenditures were aimed at saving jobs and companies during the COVID-19 lockdown period, but this time the main aim is to reduce nitrogen emissions.

The largest share of the money will be used for strengthening natural parks and supporting sustainability improvements in the agricultural sector, Carola Schouten, the Dutch minister of agriculture, nature and food quality, wrote in a letter to the house of representatives last Friday (24 April).

The choice of investment is closely related to a ruling of the country’s highest administrative court in May last year, which stated that government rules for granting permits for activities that emit large amounts of nitrogen, such as in the construction and agricultural sector, are against EU legislation.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, that ruling had already delayed around 18,000 projects in the construction sector and triggered a government decision to lower speed limits on highways.

The decision to invest now will allow permits to be issued after the crisis,  “for example, for building houses” the minister said. “Those are exactly the measures you would want to take when you are getting out of a crisis and want to create jobs”.

“What will not happen then is that the nitrogen dossier causes hindrances and comes in the way of recovery,” she wrote.

However, already two environmental organisations have announced they will file appeals to permits for nitrogen-intense livestock farming, because “those are hardly or not at all addressed here”.

(Edited by Frédéric Simon)

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