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Due to extra savings, emissions fall sharply, Urgenda target finally achieved | NOW & More Latest News Here

 

Dutch greenhouse gas emissions will fall sharply this year. This is due to the growth of renewable energy and strong energy savings, and despite additional use of coal. One day before Budget Day, it can thus be concluded that the cabinet has one less climate concern: the Urgenda target seems to have definitely been achieved. Whether the government is also on track for the 2030 climate target is still unclear.

Main Dutch climate goals

  • By 2020, greenhouse gas emissions should be at least 25 percent below 1990 levels. This goal stems from Urgenda’s lawsuit. Even in the years after 2020, this lower limit for climate policy may not be exceeded.
  • By 2030, emissions must have fallen much further: 55 percent, compared to 1990. In this way, the Netherlands wants to comply with the Paris climate agreements.
  • By 2050, the European Union wants to jointly achieve a fully climate-neutral society, the ‘final goal’ in the fight against climate change.

The ruling in Urgenda’s climate case has haunted Dutch cabinets for years. The verdict dates from 2015 and was upheld on appeal in 2018 and 2019.

At the end of 2019, it seemed that the cabinet would not comply with the verdict. The corona crisis followed a few months later, as a result of which the climate target in 2020 was narrowly achieved.

But in 2021, emissions rose again – and the limit was crossed again. In pessimistic scenarios, this situation could persist through 2024. That is problematic for the Dutch constitutional state, lawyers say. The judgment will continue to apply as a (minimum) policy obligation after 2020 as well.

Gas conflict leads to savings: emissions 30 percent below 1990

Now another unforeseen circumstance puts a definitive end to that uncertainty: the war in Ukraine. Even before that started, Russia cut gas supplies to Europe and the gas price increased fivefold. In 2022, that even increased tenfold.

Because of the high prices for gas (and thus also electricity), companies and citizens have started to pay close attention to their energy consumption in recent months, energy expert Martien Visser told NU.nl. These high prices have led to conscious energy savings, such as lower heating, and also to the reduction of energy-intensive production processes.

Added together, this leads to a significant reduction in emissions. Visser expects that this year it will even be “more than 30 percent” below the 1990 level.

Yet that was not a matter of course. Halfway through the year, the cabinet decided to generate more electricity from coal, in order to save extra natural gas. And the combustion of coal releases about twice as much CO2 as with natural gas. Extra energy savings and the annual growth of energy from sun and wind have more than compensated for these extra emissions, according to Visser’s statistics.

Additional energy savings reduced greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 8 million tons in the first eight months. Extra renewable energy removed more than 2 million tons. The CO2 increase due to additional coal was relatively small: only 0.2 million tons.


Additional energy savings reduced greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 8 million tons in the first eight months. Extra renewable energy removed more than 2 million tons. The CO2 increase due to additional coal was relatively small: only 0.2 million tons.

Additional energy savings reduced greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 8 million tons in the first eight months. Extra renewable energy removed more than 2 million tons. The CO2 increase due to additional coal was relatively small: only 0.2 million tons.

Photo: Martien Visser

Cold winter would be bad luck, but emissions decline remains

Another piece of luck plays a role in the background: January and February 2022 were soft – which has also reduced gas use. Those weather conditions remain an uncertain factor for the new heating season, which starts next month. Ultimately, this will also affect the final emissions of 2022.

Still, a cold winter will not undo the sharp decline, Visser thinks. In fact, emissions are likely to fall even further. This is because energy prices can remain high for quite some time – and saving therefore continues to pay off. At the same time, the share of renewable energy continues to rise, making the Netherlands less dependent on natural gas every year.

Wait (at least) one more day for assessment 2030

The extent to which the Netherlands is on course for the 2030 climate target can only be properly assessed on 1 November. Then the annual Climate and Energy Outlook (KEV) of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency will be published. The PBL is already publishing some key figures on Budget Day.

Those key figures were already leaked to the NOS last week. This would show that the cabinet is “far from on track” to achieve the climate goals for 2030.

But it is unclear what assumptions are made in that leaked document, says Visser. For example, it makes a big difference whether the low energy prices of the past are assumed or the presumably higher prices in the future.

And based on the KEV, it is annually recurring news that the 2030 targets would not be achieved. This is because that projection is based on existing policy, and any future (additional) climate policy has therefore not been taken into account. To assess this better, we will wait for the first official figures on Budget Day – and the full climate survey six weeks later.

Due to extra savings, emissions fall sharply, Urgenda target finally achieved | NOW
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