Government vision on nature

In 'The Natural Way Forward' the Dutch government sets out its vision on nature policy for the next 10 years. Its key aim is to bring about a change in thinking and doing. Nature should not only be allowed to flourish in nature reserves, but should be embedded in society. In that way, both biodiversity and the economy will benefit.

The full title of the new policy is 'The Natural Way Forward: Government Vision 2014'. The Ministry of Economic Affairs invited everyone to give their response to the new nature strategy before 19 May 2014. The ideas submitted will help the ministry develop ways to roll out the new policy.

Nature at the heart of society

The strategy's main premise is that nature should be embedded in society. People care about nature in protected areas, but also about their natural surroundings closer to home. The policy aims for broader involvement by individuals, companies, local authorities and civil society organisations in nature conservation, and for sustainable use of nature's assets. As the following examples show, this new vision on nature is already evolving in society:

  • farmers are creating wild-flower margins around fields;
  • more urban buildings are being designed with 'green roofs';
  • there are ecological noise barriers along motorways;
  • local residents are maintaining communal gardens or local nature areas. Residents in a Boxtel neighbourhood, for instance, jointly purchased a nature area as big as about 13 football pitches;
  • nature is being given space to flourish along rivers, which also protects the surrounding area against flooding. A good example is the nature development project along the river IJssel near Welsum and Fortmond in the province of Overijssel;
  • groups of farmers and locals are joining forces to preserve valuable landscapes;
  • multinational companies are working to reduce their products' ecological footprint;
  • tourism businesses are working on conservation projects with nature conservation organisations.

In 2015 the government will provide € 1.5 million in support of such initiatives, increasing to € 10 million a year over the next 4 years.

Responsibility for nature

While nature policy has traditionally focused on protecting nature from society, the vision now aims to recruit society in the strengthening of natural assets. This will require individuals and businesses to play a new role and take responsibility for nature conservation and sustainable use, which they are keen to do. The government's own role in nature conservation remains undiminished.

According to the Government Vision, the interests of nature and the economy can be complementary and serving one can benefit the other. Companies are increasingly taking account of nature and biodiversity, like the multinationals taking part in the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. They understand that green business practices are in their own interests. Companies that do not produce in a sustainable manner ultimately become unable to compete on global markets.

Legal nature conservation framework still a national government responsibility

The national government retains overall responsibility for nature policy, putting in place an effective legal framework for nature conservation and making sound international agreements. Central government and the provincial authorities are jointly investing in the development of the National Ecological Network.