Billion package to reduce nitrogen precipitation – New Harvest


The cabinet is earmarking a total of 6 billion euros to reduce nitrogen deposition in vulnerable nature areas. This is evident from the Bill on Nitrogen Reduction and Nature Improvement that Minister Carola Schouten of LNV sent to the Lower House today.

It was already known that the cabinet had allocated an amount of 5 billion euros for the nitrogen approach. Another 1 billion euros will be added to enable construction to receive a partial exemption from the nature permit requirement. According to the minister, this applies to activities in the construction and demolition phase that are of a temporary nature. Investments are being made in low-emission work and vehicles, among other things.

In total, 3 billion euros will go to nature restoration until 2030, and 2 billion euros is intended to reduce nitrogen emissions from agriculture, traffic, construction and industry. The government has set itself the goal that by 2030 at least half of the nature in protected Natura 2000 areas will be at a ‘healthy’ nitrogen level.

Every sector must contribute to this. Funds for investments in sustainable stables will become available for agriculture. Investments are also being made in less protein in animal feed and ‘better use of manure’, the minister writes. A conversion fund of 175 million euros will be set up to help farmers take these steps. Money will also be made available for quitting schemes.

The minister repeats that there will be a solution for the PAS reporters. There are more than 3,600 farms that currently do not have a valid nature permit. With the Nitrogen Approach Program (PAS), the Aerius Calculator decided on the basis of the company data entered whether a permit application or notification had to be submitted, or whether no permit was required at all.

PAS messages

Under the PAS, the business activities of livestock farms that had made a report were legal. When the Council of State removed the PAS legislation on May 29, 2019, these activities were suddenly no longer legal.

The cabinet has always indicated that it wants to ensure legalization, but this has not yet happened. It is a thorn in the side of the sector that provinces already allow external netting, while there is still no solution for the PAS reporters.

Minister Schouten announced in a press statement that he is looking for a solution together with the agricultural sector to speed up this process. The cabinet reportedly wants to use licensed space to legalize this. This is met with objections from the sector.

Emission abatement techniques

Another sensitive point is the effectiveness of low-emission stables. In recent years, the government has invested heavily in, for example, the use of low-emission floors and air washers in livestock farming. A CBS publication last year showed that these techniques do not always do what they should on paper.

The Experts Committee on the Fertilizers Act confirms that the techniques do not always deliver the intended reduction. Sometimes this is due to the technology itself, sometimes due to incorrect use.

Nevertheless, Schouten continues to see the importance of this. Innovation and research into new techniques are part of the structural nitrogen approach. With proven activity, livestock farmers are supported in making stables more sustainable and low-emission.

Defects Aerius Calculator

The Agriculture Minister also addresses the flaws of the Aerius Calculator that is used in licensing. The Hordijk Committee has been critical of this method. At the same time, according to Schouten, there is nowhere in the world a better method for issuing permits.

The cabinet is investigating the committee’s recommendations by, for example, also using satellite measurements. Research is also being conducted into broadening the lower limit, whereby projects with less than 0.005 mol deposition per hectare per year do not require a nature permit.

‘Realistic nature’

Despite the billions of euros that are being earmarked for reducing nitrogen deposition, the cabinet speaks of ‘realistic nature’. Minister Schouten has commissioned a survey of the Natura 2000 areas. Among other things, to determine whether recovery of the structurally weak areas is possible. Which can.

“The only question is at what price and whether that is proportional,” says the press statement. ‘There is no fast route. Central government will enter into this discussion with the European Commission, in collaboration with the provinces.

Protected species

The cabinet is also looking into whether certain protected species could not flourish better in other places. The government will include this research in the updating of the new Natura 2000 protection goals.

According to the government, adjustments may also be necessary in response to new insights into the pace or magnitude of climate change. Even then, nature objectives may prove unfeasible.

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