June 23. 2024. 2:15

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EU climate chief talks nitrogen with Dutch agrarian party leader

Problems related to the Netherlands’ current nitrogen policy and possible alternatives were discussed by the EU’s Climate Chiefs Frans Timmermans and Caroline van der Plas, leader of the opposition party BoerBurgerBeweging (BBB), in The Hague on Tuesday.

The BBB made headlines last month when it garnered the most votes of any single party during the Dutch regional election, increasing the likelihood of it becoming the largest party in the Dutch senate.

The party has made a name for itself by opposing the government’s nitrogen policy, thus gaining the support of Dutch farmers and agricultural organisations. Van der Plas had previously called upon Timmermans to discuss the nitrogen issue.

“[The meeting] was meant [for me] to hear: what room is there for the Netherlands, what is mandatory for the European Commission and what is not?” the BBB leader said after the meeting.

“The most important thing I’ve come away with is: Brussels doesn’t say no. At least, not always,” she added.

During the meeting, Van der Plas also proposed alternative measures to the current policy of buying out farmers and reducing livestock and CO2 emissions – one of the core tenets of her party’s programme.

“I want to go to nature policy and get rid of nitrogen policy”, she said. “Where does the damage come from? Some nature areas with a high nitrogen load are doing just fine. And hiking and mountain bike trails in a nature reserve, what damage does that cause?”

Timmermans described the conversation as ‘special and fine’.

“What is very encouraging to me is that the BBB wants to adhere to European laws and regulations,” Timmermans said.

At the same time, he emphasised that Van der Plas would not be able to get around the issue of nitrogen and emission cuts.

“You can’t get around that problem. She will have to demonstrate that the path she chooses will also lead to the protection of nature. That is on her shoulders,” he added.

“Now don’t think you can get out from under the problem of nitrogen because nitrogen will always have to be addressed as a problem” as “nitrogen is crucial,” he said, noting, however, that “there are other conceivable methods”.

(Benedikt Stöckl | EURACTIV.com)