December 11. 2023. 11:21

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Climate groups, farmers angered by ‘nature permit’ for Dutch airport

The outgoing cabinet’s decision to grant a ‘nature permit’ to the country’s largest airport, Schiphol, which would allow it to schedule at least 440,000 flights per year, sparked outrage among climate groups, farmer representatives, and lawmakers on Tuesday.

The permit was granted by outgoing Nitrogen Minister Christianne van der Wal (VVD/Renew) as the Netherlands continues to look for ways to decrease its nitrogen emissions, which are supposed to be cut in half by 2030.

“This is an important moment because by obtaining the permit, we are once again in compliance with the applicable laws and regulations,” the airport stated in a press release.

The permit allows the airport to schedule 440,000 to 500,000 flights per year. Despite not meeting the government’s nitrogen rules, it had previously profited from a tolerance policy which granted a certain amount of wiggle room due to its vital importance for the country’s economy and transport net.

The new permit now puts an end to this legal ambiguity.

The cabinet’s decision sparked significant outrage among lawmakers, who back in February had passed a motion against granting Schiphol a permit as long as it does not map out the aviation sector’s contributions to solving the nitrogen crisis.

“Unbelievable that the outgoing cabinet is making this choice! Five hundred thousand flights goes against everything we are fighting for tackling the nitrogen crisis, solving the housing crisis, limiting noise pollution, restoring nature,” Labour Party (PvdA/S&D) lawmaker Habtamu de Hoop lamented on Twitter.

“Many questions. What does nature gain from this? How many farmers have had to make way for this? […]” added GroenLinks (GL/EU Greens) MP Laura Bromet.

Farmer and climate group outrage

Farmers’ representatives seconded the lawmakers’ anger with the cabinet’s decision, as the sector has had to carry the brunt of the measures to tackle nitrogen emissions through buy-out schemes and to transition to sustainable forms of agriculture.

“This is infuriating, isn’t it? If farmers have to reduce, so do traffic and industry!” tweeted organic farming advocacy group Caring Farmers.

Farmers’ interest group Agractie called the decision “particularly wry and unfair to farmers, who are locked in and have no idea when this uncertainty will end”.

The interest groups especially criticised the fact that, instead of actually finding ways to make the aviation sector more sustainable and less pollutive, the airport simply acquired the needed nitrogen emission space to receive the permit by buying out farms surrounding its premises.

The Dutch branch of Greenpeace also slammed the cabinet’s green light for the airport’s pollution.

“Disappointing that Schiphol gets a permit to simply emit nitrogen as before. This is a missed opportunity for the government to intervene and protect nature, residents and climate from Schiphol’s pollution,” it tweeted.

(Benedikt Stöckl |

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