Nitrogen Minister van der Waal: ‘We are shocked, it must be done quickly’

Minister van der Waal (second to right) explains her policy. Photo:

The Netherlands does not have time to discuss in depth all the developments related to nature and nitrogen. The urgency is too great for that. This is what the Minister of Nature and Nitrogen Van der Wal said during the NOVI conference in Nieuwegein. On June 10, it will publish a map with targets for each N2000 region. “When you see the effect of that… this will be really intense!”

Over the past three years, the foundation has been laid with the Nitrogen Reduction Act, Nature Improvement and Source Actions. “Now we have to dramatically accelerate the creation of this space for development,” Minister van der Waal told her audience of politicians and civil servants who are involved in the development of the area. With a wink: “Of course, a top speed of 100 km / h.”

The map provided by the minister on June 10 shows a few dozen areas turning dark red. This is where the urgency is greatest. The counties have until July 1, 2023 to set goals. Incredibly fast. This is why they also focus on wellbeing and volunteering. “A farmer who wants to stop immediately saves space, while confiscation takes years of legal action.”

Because the mission is there: Nature has to make great progress. She said it was different than it was a few years ago. On May 29, 2019, our approach was brutally disrupted by a court decision. You can only grant permits if you actually reduce nitrogen emissions and restore nature. We didn’t keep our promise at the time. He made that statement painfully clear.

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An integrated approach to more tasks

The approach should be different, but in such a way that other tasks are also included. Where Belgium is intervening aggressively to reduce nitrogen alone, the minister wants to look further into the Netherlands. In addition to the nitrogen approach, water framework guidance and the mission to be climate-neutral by 2050 also play a role.

Doesn’t this integrated approach make it more complicated? “Not at all,” she said. It is good to realize that 46 percent of nitrogen emissions come from the agricultural sector. So the measures are having an incredible impact on this sector,” the minister said. That’s why you don’t want to focus only on nitrogen. Then we will now take painful measures for the agricultural sector and then move to the farm in a few years with more guidelines. We want to prevent that.

Collaboration at all levels

This integrated approach only works if there is cooperation at all levels. She herself, for example, works closely with the Minister of Housing and Spatial Planning, De Jong. “Hugo takes charge of space.” Van der Waal is in line with the National Rural Areas Programme.

Together they draw on the water and live. Truly an area oriented approach when it comes to nitrogen and nature restoration, we also use this as guiding principles. And in it, we really make choices that prevent us from doing the wrong things in the wrong place,” according to the minister. “So we’re also looking at the bottom.”

Van der Wal wants everyone to be included in the process. “The great thing about this approach is that it really goes from the bottom up. With climate you can generally bring up goals, but if you look at nitrogen and nature, every region is different,” she said. “That’s the strength of the region-oriented approach.”

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Farmers should be closely involved in this. You want them to think for themselves about their point of view. I talk a lot about “what”. I think we should leave the “how” in the same areas. At the same time, we must be clear that we have areas in the Netherlands where the state of nature is so red that we do not have years of time for the operations of the area. That’s why you’ll step in if it’s not fast enough. Not nice, but we don’t have a choice. We must continue.’

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