State Secretary Mansveld modernises environmental policy

The environmental challenges of the 21st century require a modern approach. Although life has become healthier and safer over the past decades, there is still work to be done. In addition, new substances can bring new health risks. That is why the cabinet is modernising the environmental policy. The cabinet wants to involve the public, companies and other authorities in this to the full. To that end, today marks the launch of the Duurzaam Doen (Sustainable Action) programme that offers prospects for action for people who want to give high priority to sustainability, and provides inspiration for sustainable actions. So writes State Secretary Mansveld in a memorandum to the House of Representatives entitled ‘Modernisation of the Environmental Policy’.

Environmental policy focuses on health

Much has been achieved over the past years. The problems of acid rain and severe smog have been steadily reduced. “But there is no room to sit back and relax,” according to Ms Mansveld. “The 21st century is setting us new challenges. Air quality can still have an adverse impact on public health. This means that we need to reduce transport emissions by making stringent agreements on this issue at the European level.” Moreover, the State Secretary wants to stay ahead of any new environmental problems and related health problems. We should therefore be alert to the introduction of new substances into the environment such as genetically modified organisms and microplastics in bath foam and toothpaste, for example.

21st century requires new coalitions

The cabinet wants to utilise the energy that many parties have in the areas of the environment and sustainability. Results will not be achieved simply by standards being set in The Hague or Brussels. With the Sustainable Action programme, the cabinet wants to offer prospects for action to all people for whom sustainability is a high priority and to provide inspiration for sustainable actions.

The role of our cities is also becoming increasingly important. A healthy living environment can only be realised if environmental aspects are taken into consideration from the outset when houses and roads are built. In cities, people live, work and enjoy recreational activities in relatively close proximity to each other, which means that seemingly small-scale initiatives can have considerable impact. The government wants to bring parties together in such initiatives. There is active  support for initiatives like the Rotterdam Climate Initiative, Amsterdam Smart City and Sustainable Almere 2.0, through Green Deal agreements, for example.

Priority given to international approach

International cooperation is becoming increasingly more important. On the one hand because our environmental policy is for the most part generated in Brussels, but also because certain problems cannot be effectively tackled without successful international cooperation. After all, air and water pollution do not stop at borders. Moreover, companies operate across borders far more often today than in the past. This means that international agreements need to be made on product requirements such as car emissions.

Simpler regulations

In addition to working actively at the international level, changes are also needed in the Netherlands. Legislation and regulations from the ‘old’ environmental policy, for example, could hinder the approach needed and the related innovations. The cabinet wants to avoid this by simplifying regulations and including them in the Environment Act. When the Environmental Management Act is incorporated into the Environment Act, the question of what powers should lie with which authority will be closely examined. The aim is for the powers to lie with the layer of government that can best solve particular problems.