Dutch economy growing greener

07/12/2015 10:59

As reported in Statistics Netherlands’ latest publication Green Growth in the Netherlands 2015, the Dutch economy has become ‘greener’ over the past 15 years.  Out of the six different themes structured around green growth, progress has been made on five themes. For example, environmental efficiency in the economy is improving, although compared to other European countries the Netherlands obtains a relatively low score on this theme.

Green growth is measured by using a framework of environmental and economic indicators as defined by the OECD. Within this framework, six themes were identified: environmental efficiency, raw material efficiency, natural resources, environmental quality, green policy instruments and economic opportunities. These themes cover a total of 36 indicators.

Over the period 2000-2014, the Netherlands made headway on 22 of the indicators while it retreated on 8. As a result, improvement rather than deterioration can be seen on five out of six themes. In spite of this advance, the Netherlands is in the bottom half of the European ranking on four out of the six themes, and its position has not improved in recent years. Other countries, too, are putting less economic pressure on the environment than in the past.

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Environmental efficiency improved, but the Netherlands is low in European ranking

Over the period 2000-2014, the Dutch economy grew while emission of pollutants declined. Greenhouse gas emissions fell, so less CO2 was emitted per euro earned. In Europe, the Netherlands ranks average. Most of the energy is still produced using fossil fuels, involving considerable amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. Another indicator within this theme, the per capita carbon footprint, remained the same.

Despite the fact that the Dutch economy is performing with increased environmental efficiency, the Netherlands has a relatively low position in the European ranking on this theme. For example, its carbon footprint is larger compared to other countries due to relatively high consumption levels and  higher levels of nitrogen surpluses caused by intensive livestock production.

Greenhouse gas emissions per euro earned

Developments in natural resources lag behind

The Netherlands’ high levels of prosperity and population density still exert a significant amount of pressure on natural resources. These indicator give a rather mixed picture. On the positive side, fish stocks in the North Sea have improved and the Dutch ecological footprint on global environment is gradually being reduced. On the other hand, biodiversity continues to remain under pressure, although it has shown moderate improvement more recently.

Netherlands more efficient in using resources 

Over the past 15 years, the Netherlands has become increasingly efficient in using its raw materials. Domestic consumption of metals, minerals and water have become more efficient, and the Netherlands has been recycling most of its waste for years. Compared to other EU members, the Netherlands has achieved strong results on all these criteria. The Netherlands is one of the countries with the lowest amount of landfill disposal, the highest percentage in waste recycling and low domestic consumption of metals and minerals per capita.

Landfill disposal, 2012

*  Greece (1,690 kgs per capita) and Estonia (5,774 kgs per capita)

Greening offers economic opportunities  

The greening of the economy generates new opportunities for the private sector. Within the theme of economic opportunities, all indicators are showing an upward trend. Employment in the environmental sector consisted of 126 thousand full-time jobs in 2013 and has accelerated more in recent years than in the economy overall. In registration of patents as well, green patents showed an increase in both absolute and relative terms. Furthermore, the share of environment-related investments in total investments has increased.

Partly due to the high share of environmental taxes, the Netherlands ranks high on the European list of green policy instruments. In addition, public expenditure aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions has gone up.

In the visualisation Green Growth  developments of the indicators per theme in the Netherlands (left) and the Netherlands’ position in de European Union or the OECD (right) are captured in different coloured bullets. A red bullet indicates a negative trend, yellow a neutral trend and green a positive trend.