Rutte IV: What does it mean for the environment?

January 25, 2022

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The cabinet and its ministers for the new Dutch Coalition have been revealed, consisting of the VVD, D66, CDA and ChristenUnie. It has been entitled Rutte IV, after Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s fourth consecutive term. With each new cabinet comes new objectives: what will the next 4 years look like? An increasingly important concern is the issue of climate change. In fact, in Rutte IV, a new minister position has been created, dedicated to “Climate and Energy”. It will be filled by Rob Jetten (D66). Jetten is the number two in D66, a party in which climate change and the environment are a high priority, making his recruitment as this minister appropriate. But, what does Jetten, and Rutte IV, aim to achieve? 

Current state of affairs

The stakes are high: the COP26 agreement, the 2019 National Climate Agreement, the National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) have provided a difficult task for the new cabinet. Until presently, the Netherlands has failed to meet many climate change goals, even with the corona-crisis, which significantly lowered the amount of greenhouse gasses. One of the major aims, signed by the Netherlands in the Paris climate agreement (COP21), was to reduce CO2 emissions by 49% by 2030 compared to in 1990. However, the caretaker-cabinet expressed concerns that despite the seven  billion euros from Prinsjesdag that has been set aside to achieve this goal, this will still not be sufficient. Analysis from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (NEAA) revealed that from the current plans in place to reduce CO2, there will only be a 34% reduction. The new cabinet has recognised this as an issue, and as a result, has declared that billions of euros will be invested into climate change plans. 

A bold new plan

Following the announcement of the new cabinet in Rutte IV, the role of climate and environment is prominent. Rutte IV aims to incentivise households and companies to convert to renewable and environmentally friendly energy resources, by providing subsidies for wind and solar energy. In addition, a tax will be introduced for every kilometre that a car has ridden. This is a strategy that has been previously held back by the VVD. In the long term, the cabinet will invest money into research and potential development of nuclear energy, to investigate the pros and cons of nuclear energy factories. 

Jetten, the new minister of Climate and Energy, has bold ideas on how the Netherlands can shift its emissions course into the right direction. A difficult task lies ahead for him, as Jetten admits that a game of catch-up will be tricky. However, with increased focus on climate-change in the new cabinet, there is a chance of major progress. 35 Billion euros is to be invested over the next ten years to help achieve the climate agreements from the COP21 and the Paris Agreement. The original goal within Europe of a 40% greenhouse gassesemission reduction has in fact been increased to 55%, with 60% being CO2. This, according to the NEAA, borders the maximum of any realistic plan. The underlying idea behind this is primarily to attract more attention from industries as well as the general public, so that climate-change attitudes are more prominent. This will enable policy changes to be undertaken, as the popular vote will go towards advocating climate-change. Jetten and Rutte IV would like to push primarily for subsidising green-energy methods in order to meet this reduction. Many households, but also industrial companies, have refrained from choosing for green-energy, as the initial buy-in costs are too high. However, green-energy becomes financially more appealing with subsidies, especially now as the energy prices are growing quickly due to the corona-crisis. Whether this plan is physically, and politically,  achievable, however, is another question.

Potential problems

One may wonder: “It all seems so clear and easy – why has it not been done before?”. Ideas on global warming and what should be done are certainly cause for discussion. In the Netherlands, there has always been a debate, which has limited the amount of action that can be achieved. It is no secret that political parties only accept policies if they know that they will not lose support – this is true in almost every country. The VVD, the largest party in the Tweede Kamer, has previously rejected various ideas to prevent climate-change. For example, the VVD voted against lowering the maximum speed limit, as this went against characteristics of its voters. In addition, the CDA and VVD have advocated for expansion of motorways, rather than focussing on the expansion of eco-friendly transport methods. The CDA, fuelled by its support from the farming community in rural areas of the Netherlands, has also been the voice of the farming industry. They expressed concern for a lack of financial stability and the major uncertainty for the future of this industry. These concerns are warranted, as is the drastic need for more action in limiting climate change. Hence, the need for research in this field, and study of all consequences that may follow, is undeniable. 

The jury is still out whether Jetten will succeed in handling such a divided debate. However, the enlarged focus on the environment and its issues seems to be promising. Whilst the current goals set by the Dutch government, under supervision from the EU, are ambitiously high and may not be achieved in its entirety, there is a decent level of guarantee that ensures that steps will be made in the right direction. Whether or not this is enough, is tricky to tell. 

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