The Netherlands

The Summary



1.    The Strategy

1.1    Why an environmental policy?
1.2   Evaluation
1.3   Main strands of policy

2.    The Actors
2.1    The public authorities
2.2    The public
2.3    Agriculture
2.4    Industry
2.5    Refineries
2.6    Energy Companies
2.7    Retail Trade
2.8    Transport
2.9    Construction
2.10    Waste Disposal industry
2.11    Actors in the water cycle

3.    International environmental policy
3.1    General international strategy
3.2    General Strategy for Europe
3.3    Concrete international priorities

4.    Rationale and main policy elements
4.1    Environmental themes
4.2    Area-specific policy
4.3    International environmental policy
4.4    Policy instruments and enforcement
4.5    Science and technology
4.6    Spatial, financial and economic consequences

In conclusion


Twenty-five years of environmental policy in the Netherlands have had their effects. The fourth Environmental Survey demonstrates that the Netherlands has succeeded in reducing its environmental burden while enjoying economic growth. The emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide form an exception to this, however. Other objectives also still remain to be met, and where we are getting close, success may be jeopardised by economic growth unless additional measures are taken. Environmental policy will therefore continue to be necessary, whence this third NEPP, which sets forth the broad policy to be pursued for the period 1999 to 2002 inclusive, taking as its horizon the year 2010.

Wherever possible, the NEPP3 integrates together the discussion of national and international policy. The chapters on the public authorities, target groups, environmental themes and other issues deal with both the national and international strategies in these areas. The NEPP3 also contains a separate chapter which draws together the elements of the international environmental strategy. First of all a brief retrospective look is taken at the experience and the results in the last plan period. Partly as a result of Agenda 21 and the Treaty of Maastricht the international activities of the Netherlands were characterised by "active environmental diplomacy". Under this heading, specific policy objectives were formulated and results achieved, particularly in the traditional areas of environmental policy, mainly as a result of the creation of international treaties and the strengthening of EU environmental policy. In new areas such as the promotion of sustainable development and "external integration" the results are difficult to measure. After this retrospective review, the NEPP3 looks forward to the developments expected in the coming years. The point is made that the Dutch environment will depend heavily on policy developments in Europe and the rest of the world, that the dependence on international environmental policy developments will also increase, and finally that the economic interdependence of countries will also rise. The globalisation of the economy can have a major indirect impact on environmental policy. It is concluded that the Netherlands will have to have an international environmental strategy if it does not want to be at the mercy of "autonomous" international developments. Finally, the NEPP3 describes international environmental policy for the plan period. This general strategy and the strategy for Europe are included in their entirety in chapter 3 of this summary. Concrete international priorities are given in an abridged form.

This summary comprises four chapters. Chapter 1 examines the background to environmental policy, contains an evaluation, and describes the main strands of environmental policy. Chapter 2 describes the role of the various target groups of environmental policy: the public authorities, the general public and the other actors involved in environmental policy as we have come to know them. Chapter 3 deals with international environmental policy and finally, chapter 4 sets forth the rationale for, and the main elements of, environmental policy.


1.1   Why an environmental policy?

The public authorities in the Netherlands are charged with enhancing the well-being and living standards of all its inhabitants both now and in the future. The protection and enhancement of the living environment is an important aspect of this duty, and is enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution. In seeking sustainable development - the main objective of environmental policy - it becomes apparent that concern for the environment is part of a wider concern aimed at well-being and living standards. The term "sustainable development" was coined by the UN Brundtland Committee to describe a development which satisfies the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

A clean environment fulfills many functions for us, and we seek to continue to utilise these functions in a sustainable manner. It provides the water we drink, the air we breathe, and succours the crops we eat. A clean environment allows us to live safely in green surroundings. In short, a clean environment is not an end in itself, but rather an essential prerequisite for ensuring the Netherlands is a fit and attractive country in which to live, work and pursue recreation.

Sustainable development requires not only that the environment is clean and free of pollution and nuisance, but also that good-quality natural resources are available for all, both now and in the future. It is vital that the distribution of and access to natural resources are fair, not only within the Netherlands but also globally. The government sees energy, biodiversity and physical space as the critical resources for present and future human needs. At the global level, water and food resources also need urgent consideration.

In the global perspective, it is imperative that the resources needed to satisfy human needs are carefully husbanded. A sustainable development can only be achieved in the Netherlands in an international context, recognising that the Netherlands forms part of a larger whole in social, economic and ecological terms.

The Netherlands does not stand alone in its quest for a sustainable development. The international community has espoused the objective of sustainable development in various agreements, including Agenda 21 and the Convention on Biological Diversity. The results achieved at the climate conference at Kyoto also illustrate the international importance attached to the environment.

1.2   Evaluation

In the last ten years the Netherlands has succeeded in reducing its environmental burden while enjoying economic growth. An "absolute decoupling" has been achieved and pollution has been reduced. Environmental quality is improving steadily in the Netherlands, particularly at the local and regional levels. The pollutants responsible for climate change form an exception to this.

Despite improvements in the environmental efficiency1, a number of our objectives for 2010 will not be met on time. Policy efforts to abate noise and clean up contaminated land need to be made more efficient and effective. In some cases the objectives are expected to be met without further policy by 2020. In other cases, society will have to make major efforts and sustain major costs in order to actually achieve the objectives.

The successes of environmental policy are related to the willingness and receptiveness on the part of industry (the target groups), regional and local government (also internationally), interest groups and the general public to shoulder their responsibilities and to contribute to resolving environmental problems. The nature of a particular environmental problem also plays a role. Point sources, for example, can be readily abated, and the availability of practical alternatives is an important factor.

The continuing economic and demographic growths are the major threats to environmental policy, and these problems can often only be tackled by international cooperation. The continuing growth in the economy and the population could cause a resurgence of emissions in some cases if our environmental policy should falter. This will occur if the environmental gains achieved by more environmentally efficient production are offset by increased pollution due to growths in the volume of production and consumption. Socio-cultural, administrative and technological breakthroughs will be needed if we are to achieve the objectives set: changes in consumption patterns, the greening of the tax system and more environmentally friendly transport systems. Ultimately these breakthroughs can only be accomplished in an international context.

Based on the lessons learned from the policy of the NEPP1 and NEPP2, the government concludes that in important respects environmental policy is entering a new phase, that of "environmental management". After a period in which the focus was on clean-up (tackling existing problems) the main job is now shifting more towards ensuring an absolute decoupling of economic growth and environmental pressure and the sustainable use of natural resources.

1.3   Main strands of policy

The government aspires to advance living standards and well-being and therefore sees it as its job to create the conditions in which consumers and industry can make sustainable choices. The government has already reserved an additional NLG 2.6 billion in its 1998 budget for the period to 2010 to finance the measures in this NEPP3. The NEPP3 together with other measures planned by the government will make a major contribution to fulfilling this task. The government intends to create the necessary conditions and shape its environmental policy by pursuing the seven following strands of policy:

The government will continue the initiatory international environmental strategy pursued by the Netherlands in recent years. There will be a particular focus on seeking international agreements for environmental problems which the Netherlands cannot solve on its own, and on reducing global environmental problems which the Netherlands helps to cause. As far as Europe is concerned, the Netherlands will continue to work intensively for the renewal of EU environmental policy, and will devote considerable attention to supporting the countries of Central Europe in their accession to the EU.

Based on current expectations for economic growth, the NEPP objectives will be largely achieved with the help of the measures described in the NEPP3, although in some cases later than the originally planned date. Calculations of the RIVM (National Institute of Public Health and Environmental Protection) indicate that the measures set forth in this Plan will achieve substantial emission reductions. This applies to nutrients, for example. Another example is in the clean-up of contaminated land, where the expected duration of the clean-up programme will be at least halved, from 80 to 40 years, by increasing the budget (NLG 1.5 billion) and by modifying the approach taken

It will be difficult to meet the objectives for acidification (NOx and ammonia) and disturbance (noise) within the appointed deadlines with NEPP3 policy. This also applies to the international obligations arising out of Kyoto agreements on climate change and greenhouse gases. Although implementing the measures contained in the NEPP3 over the coming four years will mean making major strides towards these objectives, they will not actually be met. This is mainly because of the consequences which growth in the economy will have for the environment. Growth in consumptive expenditure leads to concomitant growth in energy-related emissions such as CO2. More stringent measures could rectify this situation within a reasonable time-scale, but would have severe financial and social consequences. Furthermore, the necessary technology is not available in all areas to ensure timely implementation.

Despite the problems in meeting the objectives, there is no question of abandoning them at present; the only objective to be revised is that for severe annoyance due to noise. Abandoning the objectives would mean that the underlying quality objectives, for example for clean air in cities and the prevention of climate change, would not be met. This would run counter to the mission which the government has set itself. The government will however extend the deadlines for some objectives: for the emissions of NOx and ammonia from 2000 to 2005.

The government anticipates that further measures additional to those proposed in the NEPP3 will be needed to tackle the problem of climate change (greenhouse gases), traffic (NOx and severe noise annoyance) and agricultural emissions of ammonia. The NEPP3 presents a number of options in this regard. These include the introduction of "low-noise asphalt" in urban areas, setting more stringent "loss standards" for nutrients in sandy soils or the use of "green power" in government buildings. Given that these options are much more far-reaching than was envisaged when the present government was formed, it would be reasonable for decisions in this regard to be made by the next government. Furthermore, higher growth may cause increased environmental pressure, and account should be taken of this in preparing the budget.


There are various actors involved in environmental policy: the public authorities, the target groups, the various societal organisations and the general public. Each of these actors has a role in the formulation and implementation of environmental policy. The major actors are the authorities, the public and the target groups. This chapter contains a summary, for each category of actor, of the main developments and policy for the plan period.

2.1 The public authorities

The public authorities comprise central government, the provinces, the municipalities and the water boards. During the last plan period there was a redistribution of tasks between the various authorities.


Central government has given more policy leeway to regional and local authorities within clearly defined frameworks. This trend is exemplified by the "Towns and the Environment" project, area-specific policy and corporate environmental plans. During the last plan period, the provinces were involved not only in the execution of policy but also in its design. A number of provinces transformed their environmental plans into comprehensive plans for the living environment. Area-specific policy led to measures being taken which would not otherwise have been taken. By taking a more systematic approach to licensing and enforcement, municipalities have ensured that more companies have up-to-date licenses, and have inspected more companies for regulatory compliance. Municipalities are broadening their objectives to incorporate sustainable development and attention for the living environment. Water boards are increasingly seeking to coordinate the agriculture, nature conservancy and urbanisation functions, in order to improve the water economy and enhance safety. There is increased interest in integrated water management and a systemic approach to water.

Policy for the plan period

The government is well aware that the public authorities must set an example in implementing environmental policy. Public procurement and investment will therefore take account of environmental considerations, for example through the use of green power. The government is developing guidance for government purchasing departments. The environmental effects of polluting activities will also have to be controlled by means of environmental management systems. Public enterprises and establishments will therefore have to implement effective environmental management systems.

The government underlines the need for partnership for the success of environmental policy. Many activities of the various public authorities are interconnected. At central government level, the Cabinet is fostering "external integration": other departments have regard to the environment and the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment has regard to social and economic issues. As part of this the government is giving priority to extending and developing the Environmental Management Act so that it becomes a comprehensive and transparent law permitting an integrated approach to environmental problems.

The government is also setting aside approximately NLG 0.9 million per year for local and regional initiatives directed towards sustainable development. Additional efforts will be expected from provinces in regard to active soil management, enforcement, monitoring and the provision of information. Municipalities have a special responsibility to involve the public in environmental policy. Municipalities will be looking increasingly to carry out sustainable development projects with various local partners. Municipalities will also be making extra efforts in tackling contaminated land, noise abatement and regulatory enforcement. The water boards will be developing, together with the municipalities and provinces, a philosophy on the management of urban water systems. The water boards will also be required to increase their enforcement and monitoring activities.

2.2   The public

The public forms the societal support base for environmental policy. It is they who largely determine how ambitious policy can be and which measures are acceptable. The public are also consumers: the "consumers" target group contributes to several of the environmental themes.


Since the NEPP1, government has been encouraging the public to have regard to the environment in their behaviour. Information, knowledge transfer and education are the main instruments for achieving this. During the period covered by the NEPP2 a dialogue was started between the public and government about the development of environmental policy. Detailed discussions were held in a number of towns, within the framework of local Agenda 21 initiatives, about sustainability and the living environment. Citizens are also increasingly seeking involvement in national decision-making. In order to address the complex problems so closely related to patterns of production and consumption (climate, acidification), a new approach and new tools are needed. This new approach will take account of the conflicts between societal and individual objectives, of the living environment, of the increasing demand for quality and of society's need to actively engage in environmental policy.

Policy for the plan period

The government intends to continue to use information and education to secure modifications in citizens' environmental behaviour. It will also lower the barriers to changes in behaviour, for example be ensuring that environmental costs are more fully reflected in prices. The government also intends to reach agreement with the various societal organisations about activities they might undertake. In preparing policy, the government will make use of life cycle analysis (LCA) to evaluate activity clusters such as the living function.

2.3   Agriculture

The attention of environmental policy for agriculture stems from the many direct links between farms and the environment. The target group consists of the primary agricultural production units, agricultural organisations and the other links in the chain. Agriculture contributes to the eutrophication, acidification and Ground water depletion themes.


Environmental policy for the agricultural sector is shaped partly by consultations and agreements between government, agricultural organisations and the other businesses in product chains. But ultimately, the individual farmer must implement the environmental regulations. In recent years a sea change in farmers' attitudes has been occurring, with resistance to environmental measures declining, and the environment becoming perceived as part and parcel of the concept of quality.

International developments are having an increasing impact on national agricultural policy. The common agricultural policy has important consequences for the countryside and the environment in EU member states. Agriculture is likely to take on an increasingly sustainable nature under the influence of environmental policy and market pressures.

Policy for the plan period

The government is continuing the generic policy set forth in the Integrated Memorandum on Manure and ammonia. In the year 2000, this policy will be evaluated and adjusted if necessary. The government is also developing specific policy for lands sensitive to the leaching of phosphates and nitrates. The new law to restructure the pig-farming sector will require considerable attention.

As far as pesticides are concerned, the government will continue to apply the objectives for the year 2000 from the Multi-year Crop Protection Plan. The government will determine how objectives should be set for 2010 on the basis of the evaluation of the results of the administrative agreement. Approval policy will continue to be harmonised with EU policy.

The government will seek greater cooperation, for example by endeavouring to establish a "covenant' with the animal feedstuffs and fertiliser industries. It will also study whether the integral approach adopted in the glass horticulture sector is applicable to other sectors such as dairy farming.

2.4   Industry

The industry target group includes all industrial sectors except refining. The group is made up of a range of sectors which may be homogeneous or heterogeneous in terms of the nature of the businesses and processes. Climate change, acidification and disturbance are the most relevant environmental themes for industry.


The environmental effects associated with a large number of production processes have been considerably reduced. The NEPP objectives for 2000 for the industry target group will be achieved in part. Companies are increasingly taking the initiative to establish their own active environmental policy, and are incorporating the environment in their corporate strategy. This has led to emissions cuts, instituted in part by the target group policy pursued (the covenant approach), licensing and regulation. Industry faces the onerous task of continuing the decreasing trend in emissions and thereby actually meeting the targets for 2010 set in the NEPP1 and NEPP2. Although the CO2 and NOx are growing more slowly than energy consumption, a major effort will be needed.

The NOx objectives for industry, the refineries and the energy sector are not at present considered to be feasible because of the very sharp rise in costs. Industry is also taking an increasing interest in the products themselves. Moreover, this interest is shifting from dealing with the environmental effects of products to product enhancement and innovation designed to reduce the environmental impact over the entire life cycle.

Policy for the plan period

The target group policy for industry will be continued; priority will be given to implementing the agreements made. The focus of policy is on getting companies to assume their responsibility for continuously improving their environmental performance. The NOx objective for the industry target group will be deferred from 2000 to 2005. The government favours a system by which the costs of meeting the NOx targets for industry, the refineries and the energy sector can be spread. If industry does not itself come up with proposals for achieving the NOx objective, then government will propose a mix of regulatory instruments designed to achieve the NOx target by 2005. The government has allocated NLG 165 millions to support the abatement of NOx from stationary sources. These funds will be used in particular to subsidise add-on abatement technologies.

The main elements of climate change policy comprise the multi-year process and the storage and transhipment of raw materials and products mainly cause problems related to the climate change, acidification and toxic and hazardous pollutants themes.


SO2 emissions have been reduced by nearly 60% from their 1980 level. Emissions of NOx have been reduced by 25 to 30%. The refineries have also increased their energy-efficiency in accordance with the multi-year agreements concluded.

During the last plan period, the government argued forcefully for international agreements and regulations for refineries. This resulted in various EU directives which will be implemented in Dutch law in the coming years. These will give new impetus towards realising the NOx and SO2 objectives. As emissions standards for passenger and goods vehicles become more severe, increasingly stringent quality requirements are being placed on petrol and diesel.

Policy for the plan period

Policy is aimed at eliminating the need for liquid fuels in refineries by 2010. Emission standards will be tightened to reflect the state-of-the-art technology. As far as the climate change theme is concerned, the government is relying on multi-year agreements with the industry and is exploring the possibility of introducing bench marking. In relation to NOx the government is seeking to find a joint approach in close consultation with the industry, refining and energy industry target groups (see industry target group).

2.6   Energy companies

The target group consists of the electricity producers (joined together in the Association of Electricity Producers), the energy distribution companies (under the umbrella of EnergieNed) and Gasunie. The energy companies invite the attention of environmental policy because of the environmental impact of energy supply and energy usage, which mainly causes problems related to the climate change, acidification and toxic and hazardous pollutants themes.


At present the SEP, EnergieNed and Gasunie are working on an "Integrated Environmental Plan for Energy Sector". This coordinates the environmental plans of the production and distribution companies, at present for the period until 2000. During the NEPP2 plan period the electricity producers made considerable inroads into their acidifying emissions by virtue of the Emission Limits (Combustion Plant) Decree. Since 1980, the CO2 emissions from centralised electricity generation have only increased from 35 to 38 Mtonnes per year.

The policy of the energy distribution companies with regard to sustainable energy and energy conservation is set forth in the "Environmental Action Plan" (EAP). The report in 1996 shows that, six years after the EAP was introduced, 65% of the CO2 reduction objective for 2000 had been achieved; 64% of the implicit energy savings target had been achieved. Of the intended reduction of 270 acid-equivalents by 2000, 61% had been achieved in 1996.

Policy for the plan period

The Emission Limits (Combustion Plant) Decree continues to be the main focus of policy for dealing with acidification. The government is considering together with the SEP how the acidification covenant can best be continued after 2000. As far as NOx is concerned, the government intends to consult closely with the industry, refining and energy industry target groups about a joint approach (see the industry target group). As far as climate is concerned, the energy sector is making a major contribution to realising the objectives of the action programme "Renewable energy on the rise".

2.7   Retail trade

The retail trade comprises some 150,000 businesses. There are two main focuses of policy: the promotion of environmental management systems, and the role of the sector as a link in the chain between producer and a consumer. The retail trade would like to be, and is, more than simply a relay post. The retail sector contributes to all the environmental themes.


The sector has drawn up an environmental policy implementation plan together with the environmental and economic affairs ministries. In this connection, environmental management projects have been set up in various branches of the retail sector. Successful projects were carried out in the domestic appliances sector, greengrocers, florists, DIY stores, garden centres and street vendors. These projects were directed at waste disposal, energy consumption, packaging and information.

In 1995 the Board for Retail Trade, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the NOVEM entered into an agreement whereby the retail trade has undertaken to try to improve its energy efficiency by 23% by the year 2000 relative to 1989.

Policy for the plan period

Policy for the retail trade is based on the principle of self-regulation, with the authorities acting to stimulate and enable. The government is preparing regulations for the retail and crafts sectors which will dispense with the license obligation and pass responsibility to the proprietors of the businesses. Government expects the sector to be active in adopting environmentally-friendly stocking policies as part of improved service to customers.

Finally, the government is holding discussions with the sector on whether the experience acquired with environmental management systems and sustainable building could be applied in the design of shopping centres.

2.8   Transport

The transport sector is extremely diverse in nature, including, if interpreted broadly, vehicle producers, transport companies (road, water, rail and air) and some 6 million owners of commercial and private vehicles. The transport sector contributes mainly to the climate change, acidification, toxic and hazardous pollutants and disturbance themes.


The vigorous growth of the transport sector is placing pressure on the environment. Traffic emissions of CO2 have increased by 25% in the past decade. The picture for NOx emissions is rather more favourable, particularly for automobiles, where there has been a reduction of 32% over the last ten years. Noise nuisance is also reducing, although 25% of the population still suffer severe annoyance from road traffic.

Future expectations for traffic emissions are not entirely favourable. Continued strong growth of traffic volumes means that a number of environmental targets will not be achieved within the term agreed. The expected emissions of CO2 in 2000 considerably exceed the target. Freight transport contributes particularly to this. Although the picture for NOx is more favourable, the emissions of this pollutant also do not reduce sufficiently. Finally, the objective of completely eliminating severe noise annoyance by 2010 appears not to be feasible.

Policy for the plan period

In order to help the transport group focus its efforts, the government intends to agree clear targets for the sector. As part of this, the government will consider how to deal with the existing targets for CO2 , and set NOx targets for 2010 for the entire sector. The government will continue to apply the policy for the transport sector as set forth in, inter alia, the Second Transport Structure Plan, the policy documents Working together for Access, Transport in Balance, the Policy Document on Vehicle Technology and Fuels and the Policy Document on Air Transport and Air Pollution. The emphasis is on continuing cooperation with the sector, strengthening implementation, and as a follow-on from this, enforcing existing policy. The main elements of this policy are as follows:

In developing these policy elements, government is looking to tackle vehicle emissions at the international, particularly the European, level. The main instrument at the national level is price incentives. In this context the government plans to promote environmentally beneficial, cost-effective shifts in the fuels used, and to fund research into the further variabilisation of motoring costs. In this connection, the government has allocated NLG 185 million for the implementation of the Policy Document on Vehicle Technology and Fuels.

Policy for freight transport is concentrating particularly on the demand side. The government has asked the Council for Transport, Public Works and Water Management, within the framework of the forthcoming Third Transport Structure Plan, to draw up an advice on the future of freight transport in the light of national ambitions to be a major player in European distribution. On the supply side, the main focus is on limiting growth in road transport. For example by promoting intermodal transport, increasing logistical efficiency, encouraging shifts to other modes by improving alternatives to road traffic, and on introducing cleaner vehicles, vessels and aircraft and by acting to modify driver behaviour and speed. In the field of technological innovation, government is promoting underground and pipeline freight transport. An interim policy document on shipping and the environment will be issued during 1998.

In the context of the dialogue on the future Dutch air transport infrastructure the government has given a conditional go-ahead to the high-value growth of air transportation in the Netherlands. A selective policy will be pursued to boost the development of a high-grade air transport sector and reduce the adverse effects. The condition imposed by government is that the scope for growth given to the air transport sector will be such that it contributes to the general government policy directed at securing a better-quality living environment, reduced environmental intrusion and the careful use of scarce spatial resources.

2.9   Construction

The construction industry is of interest for environmental policy because the sector has a role in relation to various critical societal needs. Needs for housing, work, mobility and recreation all lead to considerable construction activity and problems, and to waste and pollution. Conversely, environmental quality can impose constraints on housing in urban areas and close to major transport arteries.


The final report evaluating the results of the 1995 declaration of environmental targets for the construction and housing sectors shows that "progress" or "good progress" was made in relation to ten of the fifteen targets set. The approach also proved to have given a boost to sustainable building. The authorities and the market cooperated well together. Halfway through the NEPPs plan period the decision was taken to give sustainable building an extra policy boost. Interest in sustainable building was growing and the time was ripe to apply it more widely. An attempt to achieve a quantum leap in the short term in the application of sustainable building was supported by all those active in the industry.

Policy in the plan period

The policy in regard to the construction industry during the plan period will link in with the "Sustainable building 2" action plan, issued in November 1997, which continues the approach of recent years.

2.10   Waste disposal industry

This target group consists mainly of organisations engaged in waste disposal. These organisations collect, prepare for recycling, incinerate or landfill waste.


By the end of 1997, all incinerators were in compliance with the standards for atmospheric emissions contained in the Incineration (Atmospheric Emissions) Decree. Between 1990 and 1995 very large reductions were made in the emissions of pollutants such as dioxins, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid and heavy metals from incinerators. All landfills presently operational meet the standards set int he Landfill Decree (Soil Protection Act). A shift is taking place in waste management structures from the provinces to central government. Furthermore, there may be a conditional lifting of the ban on the cross-frontier transportation of waste.

Policy for the plan period

The provincial barriers to waste disposal are being dismantled. Furthermore, the government is taking steps to abolish international barriers to waste transportation as soon as possible. The government is producing a new waste management plan which will incorporate the existing plans. Government will also seek to optimise the exploitation of the energy arising from waste incineration. An increase in taxes on the landfill of combustible waste with effect from 1 January 1998 will put the costs of land filling combustible waste on a par with incineration costs.

2.11   Actors in the water cycle

The actors in the water cycle are responsible for the provision of domestic and other water, for sewage systems and for the treatment of waste water in sewage treatment plants. The main environmental impact of this target group is in the areas of ground-water depletion and waste disposal.


The policy for sewage and waste water treatment companies set forth in the NEPP2 and the Third Policy Document on Water Management has been largely implemented. The Water Supply Act is to be amended. The legal framework for sewage and for waste water treatment has been completed and the target group now has a range of policy instruments with which to apply policy.

97% of all dwellings are now connected to public sewers and sewage treatment facilities. 75% of the phosphate is being removed from waste water, thus meeting the objective for this substance. 56% of the nitrogen is being removed, and this will increase to about 68% by 1998. The target for nitrogen - a 75% removal rate by 1998 - will only be achieved by 2005.

Policy for the plan period

The existing policy, formulated in the Policy Plan for Domestic and Industrial Water Supply, is being implemented, for example through a "covenant" with the water supply companies. As far as stormwater drainage, sewage, waste water treatment and water supply are concerned, the government is drafting policy proposals designed to halt the adverse consequences of the over-rapid drainage of water from towns without jeopardising environmental or public health objectives set for these utilities.


3.1   General International strategy

The 1995 review of Dutch foreign policy states, in discussing generally the international role of the Netherlands, that it should be directed towards both national and international interests. The same can be said of environmental policy. The international activities of the Netherlands are and will continue to be motivated both by the responsibility the Netherlands feels for protecting the global environment and its own interests in a good international environmental policy.

The relationship between the environment and the economy is important in this regard. The Policy Document on the Environment and the Economy holds out the prospect of a sustainable economic development in which economic growth occurs in tandem with a reduction in the environmental pressure. Although the document was written from a national perspective, it also indicates that many of the necessary changes are only possible and sensible in a European or global context. The competitiveness of Dutch industry is also a consideration which must guide policy-makers. The Cabinet's policy plans in this international field are presented in section 3.3 under point 4. During the plan period these will be elaborated into a coherent vision which will be related as far as possible to current activities. The plans focus on two important issues from international politics: sustainable development and the globalisation of the world economy. They are predicated on a shared Dutch responsibility for the economic development and the improvement of environmental quality in other countries, and also on the importance of international constraints for national policy directed at achieving a strong economy and a healthy environment.

The Dutch strategy during the plan period must be both initiatory while at the same time open to the initiatives of other countries. In the case of particularly troublesome problems, however, it is becoming increasingly necessary to analyse the difficulties in advance in order both to achieve international successes and to take measures at the national level. An active Dutch posture internationally must always be accompanied by an active and effective national policy. Underachievement in national policy would undermine credibility in international negotiations.

An important factor is the increasing complexity of the environmental work of international organisations in the last ten years. International treaties do not always slot neatly together, jigsaw-style, but have complicated interrelationships and overlaps. The government will therefore always make an explicit choice of the forum in which the Netherlands will pursue its agenda. This will be done on the basis of political priorities, expertise in the various fora and the likelihood of concrete results. Although most environmental issues find their way onto the EU agenda and EU policy has a high priority, the Netherlands will not confine itself to the EU.

Another factor which the government will also consider in the aforementioned choice is the possibility for implementation and enforcement. In the government's opinion these matters should figure higher on the international environmental agenda. Problems in implementation and enforcement threaten to arise as a result of the increase in the number of international environmental regulations. Regional and local government should therefore be brought into the preparation of international policy, since they usually play an important role in its implementation and enforcement, and in recent years they have themselves been involved in establishing international relationships. At the beginning of the 1990s a European enforcement network was set up on the initiative of the Netherlands. In 1997, it was decided, under the Dutch presidency of the EU, that this network would acquire a more formal status and extensive advisory powers.

The Netherlands will also pursue an innovative national policy as far as possible, in order to explore the limits of its national policy space within international agreements, in particular EU regulations, for example in the fields of taxation and products.

In its relations with countries which are less advanced with environmental policy, such as economies in transition and developing countries, the Netherlands will support and encourage the building of management and policy-making capacity and foster the drawing up of national sustainable development plans (in accordance with the proposals of the OECD in "Shaping the 21st century").

3.2   General Strategy for Europe

Negotiations will be held on a number of countries, mainly from Central and Eastern Europe, about their accession to the EU on the basis of Agenda 2000. In this 1997 documents the European Commission raises the issue of future EU policy. It deals not only with the accession of the new countries but also with the future of the common agricultural policy and with the structural policy.

Generally speaking, accession to the EU will have beneficial effects for the environment in Central European countries. Environmental policy in the European Union is generally more stringent. In some areas the acceding countries actually score higher, however, whether related to formal policy or not, for example in relation to pollution from agriculture and transportation, conservation of nature and biodiversity. The Netherlands will seek to ensure that the environmental gain is maximised during the enlargement of the EU. The starting point in the negotiations should be that all the achievements of environmental policy (the acquis communautaire) should be adopted, if necessary subject to transitional periods. Conversely, the EU must respect the environmentally friendly features of the acceding countries. In order to ease the process of accession the Netherlands will seek to provide, both bilaterally and multilaterally, well-targeted assistance, in particular in building administrative capacity. Equivalence must be preserved between the new and existing members. This equivalence is already a fact in the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) of the UN. The ECE is also important in policy implementation terms because there are many members of the ECE which will not be joining the EU for the time being.

The Pan-European environmental conference to be held at Århus (Denmark) in 1998 will be important in keeping the environment on the political agenda of the EU's Eastern neighbours. The environmental ministers are expected to be able to sign a treaty during the conference on public access to environmental information and public involvement in decision-making on environmental policy and its implementation. Agreement on two protocols on the abatement of transboundary pollution in Europe (by persistent organic substances and heavy metals: see text in box) is also expected. The conference is also expected to adopt a programme to foster the use of unleaded petrol throughout Europe. Finally, progress in implementing the Pan-European strategy for biodiversity and landscape, adopted in Sofia in 1995, will also be discussed.

The growth of the EU in the coming ten years from a small group of West European countries to more than 20 countries prompts the question as to whether there should be increased differentiation, for example on a regional basis. As the EU grows there will inevitably be an increase in diversity within its frontiers. This need not mean that a fixed group of front-runners necessarily has to emerge. Within the general EU framework, it must be possible for differentiated policy with specific characteristics reflecting, for example, regional differences, to emerge. In the environmental policy of the EU, member states have always had the opportunity to pursue their own policies within certain constraints. Under certain conditions, groups of countries can also adopt certain joint objectives and means. An example is the proposal to give river basin management a central position in the draft framework directive for water (1997). Such possibilities were further extended with the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam.

There is also a growing need for a harmonisation of EU directives. Because many environmental directives have arisen in a piecemeal manner, there are many rules on the statute books whose interrelationships are unclear. Partly in response to initiatives by member states, the European Commission is attempting to move towards a system of framework directives (one for each major environmental sector) and to take an integral approach to emissions to water, soil and air, thus achieving greater consistency within and between policy sectors. Efficiency can also be increased, for example by rationalising member states' monitoring programmes and reporting to the Commission. In an informal memorandum the Netherlands indicated, in 1995 and 1997, what an ideal system of framework directives might look like. A framework directive for air was subsequently adopted, as well as an integrated prevention and pollution control (IPPC) directive. A framework directive for water is being drawn up. The first results are already being achieved in the form of standardised European descriptions of best available techniques under the IPPC directive (the so-called Eurobat documents).

Issues of differentiation and harmonisation of EU environmental policy will require that efficiency is brought to bear in the decision-making. The Netherlands intends to produce ideas and where possible forge alliances with like-minded countries.

3.3   Concrete international priorities

The Netherlands intends to give priority to eight international topics during the plan period. Three of these - climate and energy policy, acidification and biodiversity and forests - are related to areas where there is actually a policy deficit in the Netherlands. International agreements are needed in these areas. Three other topics - the environment and the international economy, dangerous substances and global freshwater resources - originate from Agenda 21, in particular the priority programme of the Commission on Sustainable Development. The last two topics - Agenda 2000 and future European environmental policy and bilateral relations - are related to new developments and the position of environmental policy in Europe and the world. The objectives of the Netherlands in regard to these eight topics are outlined below.

1.   Climate and energy policy

The Netherlands will seek to see measures adopted in the EU which will implement the agreements made in Kyoto. It will also seek "joint implementation" with, for example, countries in Central and Eastern Europe and to promote renewable energy worldwide.

2.   Acidification

The Netherlands seeks to develop an EU acidification strategy by setting emission ceilings for SO2, NOx, NH3, and VOC. It is also endeavouring to see tighter NOx and VOC standards implemented for EU vehicles and to conclude a new ECE protocol with national emissions ceilings for NOx, NH3, and VOC.

3.   Biodiversity and forests

The Netherlands is seeking to get negotiations underway on a forestry treaty, the early adoption of the EU biodiversity strategy, the creation of a "biosafety" protocol under the Biodiversity Convention and the introduction of a certification scheme for timber and forest management. The Netherlands intends to strive to achieve the acidification objectives, to develop methods to analyse the impact of Dutch activities on biodiversity elsewhere, and would also like to give consumers an understanding of the consequences of activities or products for biological diversity, with a view to changing behaviour. Finally, the Netherlands will seek to make agreements on the conservation of biodiversity in the context of its sustainable development treaties with Benin, Bhutan and Costa Rica.

4.   The Environment and the international economy

The Netherlands intends to promote the development of renewable energy world-wide and reduce the ecological "footprint" of the Netherlands and other developed countries. It would like to see an integrated policy on products also created within the EU and to identify products meriting preferential treatment. It also intends to seek a greening of the financial-economic instruments, explore the possibilities, in an international framework, of greening risk analyses for export credit and investment underwriting and examine whether a levy on kerosene can be introduced for European airspace. Finally, the Netherlands would like to see environmental aspects incorporated in the Multilateral Agreement on Investment and in the rules of the World Trade Organisation.

5.   Dangerous substances

The Netherlands is working for an internationally harmonised policy to completely ban, within 10 to 20 years, the use and/or the emissions of the 20 to 30 most environmentally dangerous substances and to dispose in a sound manner of old stocks of superseded pesticides. The Netherlands will promote the launching and coordination of actions in various international fora. Within UNEP, for example, this includes the implementation of the programme for preventing marine pollution from land, the strengthening of the "prior informed consent" procedure for trade in dangerous substances, discussions on imposing a worldwide stop on the production and use of a number of substances (including POPs), the creation of a "framework treaty on dangerous substances" and, finally, ancillary measures such as the removal and treatment of old stocks. Within the ECE, activities include restrictions or bans on production and use in protocols to the convention on air pollution and, in OSPAR, the 1995 decision that discharges of certain dangerous substances will be stopped by 2020. Finally, work is also being done within the EU on a ban on the production, use and discharge of substances.

6.   Global freshwater resources

The Netherlands seeks to put into effect the desire of the EU that all people should have access to safe drinking water within ten years. This can be achieved by careful management of freshwater resources (surface waters and Ground water) on the basis of agreements within the Commission on Sustainable Development. The Netherlands is also willing to provide assistance int he form, for example, of know-how and material or financial support in developing national programmes for water management and water treatment.

7.   Agenda 2000 and future European environmental policy

The Netherlands wishes to see the achievements of the EU environmental policy (the acquis communautaire) maintained for acceding countries, with reasonable transitional terms, and bilateral contacts established with countries which may join later. The intention should be, where possible and sensible, to attach environmental and conservation conditions to income support, and to set up an investment programme for sustainable farms as part of the reform of the common agricultural policy. Other objectives include exploring the scope for a further greening of national funds, structural funds and the cohesion fund, aiming for a shift within the cohesion fund towards public transport, endeavouring to ensure that on the accession of new member states sufficient resources are made available for Central and Eastern Europe and finally, simplifying the system of environmental directives by introducing framework directives.

8.   Bilateral relations

The Netherlands advocates the creation of new agreements and projects on CO2 and energy policy, pressing ahead with existing agreements and projects, in part through "joint implementation" and more stringent enforcement of environmental regulations. The Netherlands also intends to support the building of environmental management and policy-making capacity and to give the public a greater role in environmental policy. Cooperative relationships with other countries will be continued. There will be a special focus on countries in Central and Eastern Europe and South-East Asia. Cooperation with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe will be directed towards supporting their accession to the EU. The interest in South-East Asia issues from the desire to help these rapidly growing economies to benefit from Dutch experience in combatting the adverse effects of growth on the living environment. Apart from strengthening relations with South-East Asian countries, consideration will also be given to whether it would be useful to cooperate with a country in Southern Africa and in South American country.


4.   Rationale and main policy elements

Policy is approached from various angles: in terms of the "environmental themes", the local policy dimensions, the international angle, policy instruments, science and technology, and finally in terms of its spatial, financial and economic consequences. Policy is considered under these different headings in turn below.

4.1   Environmental themes

Environmental policy is classified by nine themes. An environmental theme is a label used to refer to closely interrelated environmental problems. Classifying by theme makes "passing the buck" from one environmental medium (soil, water and air) to another visible. Each theme is discussed in turn below in terms of the main policy developments during the plan period.

Climate change

The climate change embraces not only the enhanced greenhouse effect, but also depletion of the ozone layer. Energy consumption and the related emissions play a crucial role in relation to the greenhouse effect. The outcome of the third Conference of the Parties at Kyoto will have a major impact in the plan period. Agreements were made in Kyoto on a more stringent international objective and the sequestration of CO2 in forests and sinks. Opportunities were also created for joint implementation and international emissions trading in order to meet national objectives. The implications for Dutch policy will be elaborated in the first instance in the Climate Policy Implementation Document, to be issued in 1998.

As far as energy conservation is concerned, the government's goal is that all target groups and sectors in the Netherlands should rank amongst the most energy-efficient in the world. This represents an advance on the policy set forth in the Third Policy Document on Energy. By comparing our energy performance with that in other countries and adjusting policy accordingly, our contribution to solving the climate problem will be optimised. Energy savings, and therefore the contribution to climate policy, will be maximised. The government plans to issue a policy document on energy conservation in the spring of 1998. This policy document will cover the period to 2010, and will give further substance to the Third Policy Document on Energy for the next 4 to 8 years. The EU Regulation and therefore the Dutch Decree on ozone-depleting substances will be amended to reflect the tightening of the Montreal Protocol.


Acidification is the result of atmospheric pollution by (directly or indirectly) acidifying components and precursors of ground-level ozone. Acidification policy is directed towards reducing the emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), ammonia (NH3) and volatile organic compounds (VOC). The government is retaining the deposition objective of 1,400 acid-equivalents for 2010.

At the end of the plan period the government will assess the feasibility of the deposition objectives. The technical means to abate NH3 and NH3 emissions adequately by 2010 do not yet exist. The emissions objectives SO2 and NH3 required to achieve the deposition objective are being retained for the time being. The NOx emissions objective for 2000 is being postponed to 2005, but the objective for 2010 is retained.


Eutrophication refers to an excess of nitrogen and phosphates in soil and water. This excess disrupts ecological processes and threatens sources of drinking water. The government is developing area-specific policy to address situations in which the nutrient loss standards are still too high to permit the desired environmental quality to be achieved. The Cabinet is of course continuing to implement the policy set forth in the Integrated Memorandum on Manure and Ammonia.

Toxic and hazardous pollutants

This theme refers to the pollution of soil, water, air and the immediate living environment by toxic, hazardous and radioactive substances and genetically modified organisms (Geos). Present policy, which is both preventative and remedial, will be continued. The accent is on international cooperation. In 1998 the government will set targets for priority substances in consultation with the target groups.

Contaminated land

The contaminated land theme refers to situations in which xenobiotic pollutants in the soil can pose a threat to human health or ecosystems. The government is performing the actions listed in the Cabinet Statement on the renewal of policy for cleaning up contaminated land, based in part on the "BEVER" project. The government has allocated an additional NLG 1.5 billion for clean-up schemes.

Waste disposal

The waste disposal theme includes prevention (preventing waste from arising in the first place and improving the quality of waste) as well as the disposal of waste. Waste policy is directed primarily towards prevention. Recycling will minimise the supply of waste going for incineration or landfill. Landfill is the least desirable form of disposal; 72% of the total waste arisings are now recycled. The government seeks to increase this to 80% by 2010.


The disturbance theme relates to environmental problems which threaten the quality of the immediate living environment of the population, including noise and odour nuisance, major hazard and local air pollution. Tasks and powers related to the disturbance theme are being decentralised. In the spring of 1999 the government will introduce a new objective for severe annoyance by noise to replace the present one which sought to eliminate severe annoyance by 2010. The new objective will apply to the period 2020-2030. The government will indicate at the same time the measures needed to meet the objective. During the plan period the government will present a policy document which will address the problem of noise nuisance caused by neighbours. The government will also report on the results of a project looking at the modernisation of noise abatement policy instruments. Government is continuing to pursue its policy on odour, and is implementing its policy on major hazard. Finally the government intends to publish an action plan on urban air quality during the plan period.

Resource Dissipation

The environmental theme relates to the sustainable and efficient use and management of natural resources such as energy, Ground water, minerals, clean air and open space.

The development of an analytical framework for assessing what represents the sound use of natural resources is referred to as resource stock management. Policy for providing for the more efficient use of resource is developed within target group policy. This means that there is no longer a need to maintain resource dissipation as a separate environmental theme.

4.2   Area-specific policy

Area-specific policy allows a more specific approach to be taken which allows for local and regional differences in the causes and effects of environmental problems. Area-specific policy aims to preserve, restore or develop the functions or properties of given areas. This policy links these functions with the environmental problems and specific circumstances of the area.

The government will seek to foster and intensify area-specific policy. The approach will be selective, to ensure cost-effectiveness. The budget of the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment includes an item of NLG 45 million per year for continuing subsidies for area-specific policy.

The Countryside

Many of the measures taken as part of regional policy anticipate the coming into force of general government policy. While this represents an environmental benefit, it is often not enough to safeguard vulnerable functions. The main government emphasis is on implementing existing policy. The careful selection of areas is a particularly important principle. Experiments have also been started designed to show how a more tailored approach can be taken. Regional and local authorities are also acquiring greater scope to tailor their approach to individual circumstances. The authorities concerned work together to determine goals for specific areas, the conditions which these imply for the living environment, as well as the measures needed to achieve them.

Urban areas

The predominant theme in towns is disturbance. Environmental problems are related tot he specific urban context. Environmental quality in towns must be improved against the background of the high density of functions such as housing, work and recreation.

Experiments are being conducted within the framework of the project "Towns and the environment". In parallel with these experiments, the government is investigating how the law and regulations on disturbances can be made more uniform. Special consideration is being given to coordinating and integrating environmental planning with land-use planning and the advantages and disadvantages of local structure plans.

4.3   International environmental policy

The circumstances of the Netherlands are such as to make it advantageous to give a strong international orientation to its environmental policy. The Netherlands is heavily dependent on neighbouring countries for improvements in environmental quality. The international component of environmental policy is becoming increasingly important, so that the Netherlands must adopt a deliberate strategy (active environmental diplomacy).

4.4   Policy instruments and enforcement

Instruments are means employed by the authorities to achieve the objectives of environmental policy. These may be legal, financial or social instruments which influence the behaviour of citizens, companies or public bodies, or enforcement instruments and information to monitor and promote compliance. The success of environmental policy stands or falls on the mix of instruments chosen.

Legal Instruments

Many of the environmental policy instruments are provided for in legislation and regulations. The Environmental Management Act (1993) occupies a central position in the regulatory framework. Ideas about legislation as a policy instrument are changing. The long gestation period and lack of flexibility mean that legislation is increasingly perceived as an obstacle to social renewal. In order to increase the autonomy of regional and local authorities and companies, modifications will be made to the regulations on effect-related standards. Various elements of Chapter 8 of the Environmental Management Act will be the replacement of the prescription of means by the prescription of goals. Finally, it is important that there should be a normative framework within which this self-regulation can be given shape. The principles underpinning environmental law (as included in the Declaration of Rio) constitute an important basis for this framework. Consideration is therefore being given to incorporating principles such as the precautionary principle, the preventive principle and the ALARA principle in Dutch law.

Financial instruments

The price mechanism provides a means of stimulating environmentally-friendly behaviour without sacrificing individual freedom-of-choice. There are different forms of financial instruments, including subsidies, fiscal measures and tradeable emission permits and reductions. In a recent review of the future of taxation in the 21st century the government indicated possibilities for a further greening of the tax system. Amongst the government's plans are:

Decision will be taken early in the plan period arising out of the reviews of taxation in the 21st century. Matters which will be considered include: