Tough Emission Goals Anger Dutch Farmers

The plan would mandate reducing emissions by up to 95% in some areas.

Thousands of farmers converge on The Hague, Netherlands, Feb. 19, 2020.
Thousands of farmers converge on The Hague, Netherlands, Feb. 19, 2020.
AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Dutch government unveiled goals Friday to drastically reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides to protect the environment, a plan that would lead to major upheavals in the Netherlands' multibillion dollar agriculture industry and has already angered some farmers.

Calling it an “unavoidable transition,” the government mandated reductions in emissions of up to 70% in many places close to protected nature areas and as high as 95% in other places.

The ruling coalition earmarked an extra 24.3 billion euros ($25.6 billion) to finance changes that will likely make many farmers drastically reduce their number of livestock or to get rid of them altogether.

Farming is a key sector in the Dutch economy, with exports worth nearly 105 billion euros last year. But it comes at a cost of producing of polluting gases, despite farmers taking steps to reduce emissions.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte conceded that the plan would hit many farmers hard.

“Of course, it has enormous consequences. I understand that, and it is simply terrible,” Rutte said. “And especially if they are businesses handed down in the family who want to proudly continue.”

Provincial governments across the Netherlands now have a year to draw up concrete plans to achieve the reductions outlined in the goals released Friday.

LTO, an organization that represents 35,000 farmers, called the targets “unrealistic.”

A group representing angry farmers already has called for a demonstration in The Hague later this month to protest Friday's proposals. Past protests by the agriculture sector have seen hundreds of tractors clogging roads around the country and gathering on a park in The Hague.

Some farmers did not wait and drove their tractors in protests Friday night, including a group who parked in the street where the government minister responsible for the nitrogen policy lives, local media reported. National broadcaster NOS reported that the minister, Christianne van der Wal, left her house to speak to the farmers.

The government has been forced to act in part because European Union emissions guidelines are being breached around the country and that has led to courts blocking building and infrastructure projects in recent years because they would exacerbate the problem.

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