The Dutch government must accelerate climate policy and set a good example in this approach. Scientists from several disciplines wrote this to the Council of Ministers that will be formed in the near future. “Acceleration brings all kinds of benefits.”
In het kort
- Wetenschappers adviseren de Nederlandse overheid om het klimaatbeleid te versnellen vanwege klimaatverandering.
- Ze stellen voor om het EU-klimaatdoel van 2050 naar 2040 te verplaatsen, met een sterke focus op uitstootvermindering en aanpassingsmaatregelen.
- Het advies benadrukt dat klimaatbeleid rechtvaardig moet zijn en dat alle burgers erbij moeten worden betrokken.
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The densely populated Netherlands is highly vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. Scientists believe that droughts, heat waves and floods will increase further if temperatures continue to rise at this pace. Furthermore, as a low-lying delta, which lies partly below sea level, the Netherlands benefits from ambitious climate legislation. Whether at the national or international level.
These facts provide context for the 75-page advice to the government, which must develop a climate plan in 2024. In the advice, scientists stress the urgent need for strong climate policy, with a focus on adaptation measures and emissions reductions. Adaptation means that a country is adapting to a changing climate, such as rising sea levels and rising temperatures.
This is the first time that the Science Climate Board (WKR) has advised the government on how to implement climate policy. The WKR consists of leading researchers from climate science, economics, law, public administration, psychology, and translational sciences. According to WKR President Jan Willem Ehresmann, it is essential for such a diverse team to provide advice. The professor of environment and sustainability believes that change must happen in all areas.
Climate change is like running a marathon
Scientists are urging the government to tighten the climate target. EU member states have agreed that the EU must be climate neutral by 2050. The acceleration means that the Netherlands will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 90 to 95 percent by 2040. WKR argues that this makes achieving the 2050 target easier.
“The sooner we get started, the sooner the finish line for 2050 will become clearly visible, and the sooner our results will be,” says Vice Chairman and Professor Helen de Koninck, who compares the climate challenge to a marathon. “.
The government must reward sustainable behaviour
To achieve the ambitious 2040 target, WKR is making a number of proposals to the government. For example, not only by reducing emissions, but also removing carbon dioxide from the air. The Council also recommends reducing fossil fuel subsidies, focusing more on energy savings and providing sustainable prospects for agriculture and food production.
Scientists believe that there is a need to change behavior in today’s society. They urge the government to encourage green behaviour. This means that the government makes it easier for citizens to make climate-friendly choices, rather than simply punishing consumers for their unsustainable behavior.
Such a government incentive could include offering affordable alternatives to flying, accessible subsidies for home isolation, standardizing reusable products, and making plant-based foods more attractive.
Perhaps the most important principle of the advice: climate policy must be fair. Scientists say it is necessary to involve society in all areas. This also includes people who previously felt unheard by politicians, or households who do not have the financial resources to participate in the energy transition. The motto is that every person should be able to express their opinion on matters that affect their immediate environment or lifestyle.
“If we do nothing, we will all pay the bill.”
The Netherlands cannot save the world alone, but we can be a leader, the scientists write in the report. As a weak country and a historically large emitter, the Netherlands can inspire other countries to show serious commitment.
Moreover, scientists argue that ambitious climate policy offers many opportunities. For example, with more renewable energy, we become less dependent on fossil energy prices, as was the case after the invasion of Ukraine. More stability ensures affordability and lower inflation. There are also opportunities for companies to export innovations in the energy transition, such as spare parts for electrolyzers and heat pumps.
“Acceleration ultimately provides all kinds of economic benefits,” Ehresmann says. “The consequences of doing nothing are much greater. Then we all end up footing the bill.”
It is now up to the new government to develop a climate plan for the next ten years. It remains to be seen whether the election results will have a strong impact on climate policy. For example, the PVV manifesto said that climate plans should be “dismembered”.
Erismann sees no reason to panic: “Whichever cabinet we form, whether left or right, you must implement climate policy.”
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