#1 The nitrogen-debate: An introduction

– Lars Hogenboom

After the last verdict from our Council of State, nitrogen emission and our green environment seem to definitely go their own way. The date of divorce: the 29th of May, 2019. The verdict caused quite a havoc in the Netherlands, not in the last place due to politicians like Tjeerd de Groot (D66). After the verdict, he stated that ‘the Netherlands might have to reduce their total stock of cattle with approximately 50% to really solve the nitrogen problem’.[1] Farmers are responsible for 45%, as can be seen in figure 1, of the nitrogen deposition in the Netherlands, so a rather logical statement. The question arises whether farmers are capable of undergoing these drastic changes. The farmer protests with its prime at the 1st of October, 2019, seem to answer this question. 

Too much nitrogen has a devastating effect on our country side, it enriches our soil, causing rare plants that do well on soils with low levels of nutrients, to get extinct. A lot of these country sides, for example our heath landscapes, are in danger due to this nitrogen deposition. The Dutch government started a program to reduce this nitrogen deposition in 2015, called PAS. The PAS is in its base a regulation to accept nitrogen emissive projects, such as permits for the extension of farms or the construction of new highways. However, the government’s PAS program is not in line with the European habitat guidelines. Hence the protests of farmers and construction projects lying still. ABN Amro estimated that there is a uncertainty, for the upcoming five years, in the revenue of 14 billion euros, mostly infrastructural projects.[2]  

A plane and short introduction to a large and difficult problem which asks for firm leadership, a clear direction, and above all broad support. With this series of online publications called “The nitrogen-debate”, we try to inform you, our reader. What is exactly this nitrogen deposition problem? Where does this sudden verdict come from? Why can’t we use the German regulation, as Thierry Baudet (FvD) stated? How does this affect the Dutch industry and especially our own construction industry? And what price should we pay to reduce nitrogen deposition in the Netherlands? Find out in our online publications, with opinions from students, teachers and informative articles of actors more closely involved in the debate.

Got interested after this introduction, and don’t have the patience to wait one week? Further reading (Dutch):