A greening economy, but not in all areas

08/05/2018 15:00
© Hollandse Hoogte
The Dutch economy is growing increasingly green. Companies are implementing cleaner production processes and are using relatively fewer raw materials. In addition, production and employment in the environmental goods and services sector have increased. However, biodiversity and environmental quality (e.g. water quality) are lagging behind. This is according to figures of Statistics Netherlands (CBS) taken from the latest ‘Green Growth’ web publication, assessing developments of environmental indicators during the period 2000-2016.

Improved environmental efficiency in the private sector

Environmental efficiency in the Dutch economy has improved further. During a time of economic growth, nearly all indicators for emissions into water and air and for waste production decreased, for example particulate matter emissions (PM10). Between 2000 and 2016, these emissions declined by 41 percent while the Dutch economy grew by 21 percent. The decrease in particulate matter emissions is mainly due to national and European environmental regulations which have led industrial process modifications, increased use of filters and production of cars in compliance with stricter emission requirements. Particulate matter emissions declined in nearly all sectors of the economy except for agriculture, where emissions rose by 3 percent. This is related to a strong increase in emissions by poultry farms as a growing number of chickens are raised in free-range poultry houses. Other agricultural sectors saw a drop in particulate matter emissions.

Policy instruments not greener

In order to stimulate green growth, central government has introduced various policy instruments such as environmental taxes, subsidies and regulations. The share of environmental subsidies in total government spending remained at around 0.6 percent over the period 2005-2015. However, the budget for the most important sustainable energy production incentive scheme (abbreviated as SDE in Dutch) did increase five-fold between 2011 and 2016. In recent years, revenues from environmental taxes and levies have risen less sharply than those from other taxes. The share of taxes on energy consumption (energy tax, excise duty on motor fuel) has remained more or less stable, while the share of taxes related to transport including passenger cars and motorised vehicles tax (bpm) and motor vehicle tax has fallen. Within Europe, the Netherlands takes up a relatively high share of environmental taxes in the total amount of taxes and social contributions.