DUTCH PARLIAMENT VOTES FOR 2030 EMISSIONS CUT OF 55%, CLOSURE OF ALL COAL PLANTS

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23 september 2016

Dutch parliament votes to close down country's coal industry

Non-binding vote for 55% cut in CO2 emissions will require closure of remaining five plants and ensure country meets its Paris climate commitments

Arthur Neslen, The Guardian, Friday 23 September 2016

The Dutch parliament has voted for a 55% cut in CO2 emissions by 2030, which would require the closure of all the country’s coal-fired power plants.

The unexpected vote on Thursday night by 77 to 72 would bring the Netherlands clearly into line with the Paris climate agreement, with some of the most ambitious climate policies in Europe.

It is not binding on the government, but the Liberal and Labour parties say they will now push for speedy implementation of the motion.

Five Dutch coal-fired power stations were closed last year but the country still has another five plants in operation. Three of these came online in 2015, and have been blamed for a 5% rise in the country’s emissions last year.

The Dutch Liberal MP and vice president of the parliament, Stientje van Veldhoven, told the Guardian: “Closing down big coal plants – even if they were recently opened – is by far the most cost effective way to achieve the goals of the Paris agreement, and all countries will need to take such far-reaching measures. We cannot continue to use coal as the cheapest source of energy when it is the most expensive from a climate perspective.”

A court in the Netherlands last year ordered prime minister Mark Rutte’s government to cut its emissions by a quarter by 2020, citing the severity of the global warming threat which the Netherlands has recognised in international treaties.

Dennis van Berkel, legal counsel for Urgenda, the group which brought the case, described the vote as “an enormous leap for climate policy in the Netherlands”. The vote also calls for a 25% emissions cut by 2020.

The country’s centre-right coalition government is pursuing a twin-track response of appealing the ruling to the country’s higher court, while preparing a climate package for early November.

This could include limited coal plant closures, more funding for projects involving renewable energy, carbon capture and storage, and geothermal heating.

Some environmentalists fear that the final package will involve a coalition deal that renders the parliamentary vote obsolete. The issue has been a divisive one in the Netherlands, with the Labour party, a coalition partner in Rutte’s government, backing the opposition in yesterday’s vote.

The Dutch environment ministry was not immediately available to comment on the vote. However, the economic minister Henk Kamp spoke out earlier this month against any mothballing of the three new plants built by EOn, RWE and Engie.

“They are the cleanest (coal plants) in Europe,” he said. “We’d be crazy if we shut them.”

In March, the Netherlands will elect a new government, with Geert Wilders’ far-right, populist and anti-immigrant Freedom Party leading many opinion polls. Wilders has previously spoken dismissively of “the sinister green-windmill subsidy complex”.

Willem Wiskerke, a spokesman for Greenpeace Netherlands said: “He is a climate denier like Donald Trump, nothing more, nothing less, a rightwing, fact-free populist who denies the climate crisis and will not put any effort into solving it.”

While yesterday’s coal-crushing vote is not formally binding, van Veldhoven said she was optimistic that quick action to force a decision this autumn would tip the government’s hand, before next year’s elections.

“It is our clear political statement so this is what they must do,” she said. “It is a motion, not a law, so there is some room for manoeuvre. But having one coalition partner support it is always a good guarantee that an adopted motion will be enforced.”

Following passage of any new law, EU Emissions Trading System permits would also have to be reduced, to prevent a freak surplus lowering the price of carbon allowances, van Veldhoven said.

The parliamentary vote follows a recent report by the consultancy CE Delft, which found that the cheapest way to meet the Netherlands’ climate commitments would be to close one or two new coal stations. The paper, which was commissioned by Eneco, a Dutch green power company, estimated this would cost the average household €30 (£26) a year, but save them €80 a year on energy bills.

However, the Dutch government’s economic ministry has tallied the bill for closing all of the country’s coal plants by 2020 at €7bn. While this would have little effect on energy security and cut Holland’s emissions by 31%, the CO2 savings would fall to just 9% due to a rise in coal-produced power imports, the report said.

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Dutch parliament votes to close down coal-fired power stations


Surprise vote will bring the country in line with targets set out by Paris climate change agreement


Harry Cockburn, The Independent, September 26, 2016

Is the sun setting on coal-fired power stations in the Netherlands? iStock

The Dutch parliament has voted to implement a 55 per cent cut in CO2 emissions by 2030, in a move which would necessitate the closure of all of the Netherlands’ coal-fired power stations.

The unexpected result in the vote last week is non-binding, however, the country’s Labour and Liberal parties have said they will both push for a rapid enforcement of the policy.

The vote, which calls for the country’s CO2 emissions to be cut by 55 per cent by 2030 compared to CO2 levels in 1990, was passed by 77 MPs to 72 against.

The move would bring the Netherlands firmly in line with the goals of the Paris Climate Change agreement, which has a long-term goal of cutting CO2 levels by 80-95 per cent by 2050.

The country saw greenhouse gas emissions rise by five per cent overall in 2015, compared to a year earlier.

Carbon monoxide levels were two per cent higher in 2015 than in 1990, largely due to an increase in coal-fired power generation.

The Dutch Liberal MP and vice president of the parliament, Stientje van Veldhoven, told the Guardian: “Closing down big coal plants – even if they were recently opened – is by far the most cost effective way to achieve the goals of the Paris agreement, and all countries will need to take such far-reaching measures. We cannot continue to use coal as the cheapest source of energy when it is the most expensive from a climate perspective.”

But the plans may meet resistance from the country’s economics minister, Henk Kamp, of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), who has previously spoken against the closure of coal-fired power stations.

“They are the cleanest [coal fired power stations] in Europe. We’d be crazy if we shut them,” he said.

In June 2015, a court ordered the Dutch coalition government to implement a raft of measures to reduce greenhouse gases after ruling the country was not meeting its Kyoto goal of reducing emissions by 25 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020.


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