Dutch vision on global climate action

Dutch climate policy is aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

International action on climate change

The best way to fight the greenhouse effect is for countries to work together to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The Netherlands is party to a number of international climate agreements, including the United Nations (UN) convention on climate change and the Kyoto Protocol. These agreements form the basis of Dutch policy on climate change.

UN climate agreement

In December 2015 the UN held a climate summit in Paris: the Conference of Parties (COP21). The Netherlands was one of the countries to sign up to a new UN climate agreement. The aim of the agreement is to limit global warming to  below 2 degrees Celsius, if possible no more than 1.5 degrees. On 22 April 2016 the Dutch environment minister signed the climate agreement on behalf of the 28 member states of the European Union. The agreement will take effect in 2020.

Dutch climate policy is based on international research

The Netherlands bases its climate policy on, among other things, scientific reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC writes reports for the UN about the causes and effects of climate change. The reports also describe what measures are needed to halt global warming and what risks the future holds.

Causes of climate change

Human activities are the main cause of the greenhouse effect, which is speeding up climate change. The Earth’s temperature is rising because people are burning more fossil fuels, cutting down more forests, and using more land for crops and livestock farming.

Historically, there are also a number of natural causes behind the rise in temperature: continental drift, ocean currents, the impact of comets and meteorites, and volcanic eruptions.

Government takes action to deal with the impact of climate change

To minimise the effects of climate change, the government needs to take action.

Dutch climate policy focuses on:

  • Adapting to climate change. For instance, by taking measures to prevent flooding and protect freshwater supplies, agricultural production, the environment and health. The reinforcement of dikes also falls under adaptation. And cities, for example, can plant more trees and other vegetation to manage heat stress.
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions so the climate does not change so rapidly and radically. This can be done by switching from fossil fuels to sustainable energy sources, like solar and wind power.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Greenhouse gases that are in the air have already warmed the climate. To keep the climate from changing even more, we need to lower the amount of greenhouse gases being emitted. The main greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide, or CO2 (56%), followed by methane (32%) and nitrous oxide (6%). These gases enter the atmosphere when oil, gas and coal are burned – for instance, in industry and transport – and through intensive livestock farming.

By 2020 the amount of greenhouse gases coming into the atmosphere must be 20% lower than in 1990.

The Climate Agenda

The Climate Agenda outlines the government’s plans for dealing with climate change. It also sets out a number of national and international goals that the Netherlands is looking to achieve, together with various partners, both Dutch and international. These partners include the private sector, civil society organisations and other governments.

Agreements on emissions by municipalities, water authorities and provinces

More than half of all CO2 emissions originate in and around cities. That's why local authorities (municipalities, provinces and water authorities) have the freedom to pursue their own climate policies. Central government supports this.

This is why it drew up the Local Climate Agenda 2011-2014, together with local and regional authorities. The agenda contains examples of measures that work well on a large scale. For example:

  • making existing homes and other buildings more energy-efficient
  • promoting energy-efficient forms of transportation (like bicycles and public transport)
  • ensuring that there are enough charging points for electric vehicles. This webpage by Rijkswaterstaat contains more information about local policy on energy and the climate.

Better technology can reduce greenhouse gases

We can use technology to lower greenhouse gases. For example, we can develop solutions for:

  • saving energy;
  • saving and reusing raw materials;
  • cleaner cars;
  • cleaner crop and livestock management methods;
  • more energy-efficient devices and appliances.

Global demand is on the rise for these types of solutions. The Netherlands aims to be a world leader in smart, clean and energy-efficient technologies. Central government supports the development and marketing of new technologies, for example through Green Deals.

The role of the private sector

Over 200 companies and civil society organisations are working together in the Dutch Climate Coalition. They are taking far-reaching climate measures to make their business operations climate-neutral. In doing so, they are also complying with international climate agreements.

Various parties are also exploring climate-smart innovation, new ways of doing business and smart partnerships. The Climate Coalition is supported by central government.