The Netherlands advocates for ambitious European climate policy

As early as this year, the European Union should announce the aim of a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 40% in 2030. This would be good for the environment and would add impetus to international negotiations on a new global climate agreement: the post-Kyoto Protocol agreement. This was the cabinet response to the European Commission’s proposed policy framework on climate and energy for the period from 2020 to 2030. State Secretary Mansveld of Infrastructure and the Environment sent the cabinet response to the House of Representatives, also on behalf of Minister Kamp of Economic Affairs.

The cabinet believes it to be a positive sign that the Commission wants the focus of the European policy on climate and energy to be on reducing CO2 emissions. According to the Netherlands, other proposed targets including a percentage of renewably-generated energy, would be less urgently needed if the CO2 reduction target were to be sufficiently high. The proposed CO2 reduction of 40% is therefore the ‘lower limit’ to ensure that by 2050 greenhouse gas emissions would be 80 to 95% lower than in 1990. This was agreed globally to prevent the planet from becoming more than 2 degrees Celsius warmer this century.

The EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) is a key tool in European climate policy. Within the system, companies pay for CO2 emissions allowances. The cabinet recognises sound elements in the Commission’s proposal aimed at strengthening this system, such as the lowering of the emissions cap annually by 2.2% instead of the current 1.74 %. The cabinet is looking forward to seeing the plan to have a ‘stability reserve’ in the ETS further elaborated. This reserve would automatically withhold from the market any oversupply of allowances until they are once more in demand. If the price of the ETS allowances is high enough it serves as a stimulus for companies to invest in reducing their emissions.

The cabinet is positive about the target of 27% for renewably-generated energy for Europe as a whole. The Netherlands is already contributing to this via the agreement set down in the Energy Agreement: in 2023, 16% of energy should be renewable. The cabinet and other stakeholders will investigate how the Netherlands can increase this percentage in the years thereafter. A European target offers the member states a greater degree of freedom to take specific conditions into account. At the same time, it sends out a positive signal to people and companies that are investing in renewable energy, which the Energy Agreement is aimed at encouraging.

The cabinet and the Commission both believe that saving energy is a major pillar of climate and energy policy. Less energy would then have to be generated. In turn, this results in lower greenhouse gas emissions, reduces costs for the business community and stimulates the quest for new technologies. Moreover, saving energy delivers jobs through new investments and less energy needs to be imported.

At the European level, the cabinet is continuing to advocate for the reduction of CO2 emissions in the transport sector. It is disappointing that the Commission is dropping the reduction target for fossil fuels. This means, for example, that the stimulus for developing advanced biofuels will disappear. To be able to gauge exactly what the Commission’s proposal means for the Netherlands, the cabinet will ask the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) and the Netherlands Energy Research Centre (ECN) to identify the proposal’s effects.