Big Dutch air pollution cuts proposed

Ministries weigh options for national emission ceilings stricter than international commitments

Four Dutch ministries have proposed a series of options for exceeding the Netherlands' international commitments to cut national emissions of major air pollutants responsible for acidification, eutrophication and ground-level ozone pollution (see table below). All the scenarios will cost considerably more than current policies to implement, the report says.

Three options are presented for cutting sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ammonia (NH3) by 2010. Even the least ambitious ceiling, dubbed "Gothenburg," is in fact significantly stricter than the one the Netherlands committed to under last year's UN protocol of the same name (ENDS Daily 2 September 1999).

Compared with current national emissions targets, all the options would cost significantly more. "Gothenburg" is costed at an additional euros 199m (DF439m). The more stringent "National Plus" would cost nearly euros 450m extra and the most ambitious "Advanced Plus" option some euros 680m.

Compiled jointly by Holland's ministries of agriculture, environment, transport and economic affairs, the report stresses that emissions of the four air pollutants remain too high. Based on preliminary data, it estimates that strict national limits would do much to reduce NH3 pollution, but due to cross-border pollutant transport would do less to reduce SO2 and NOx impacts and least to reduce pollution due to VOCs.

The ministries suggest that the government could choose one of the options proposed in the Netherlands' new national environmental policy plan (NMP4), which is currently being drafted. They note that going beyond international commitments could have environmental and public health benefits and strengthen the Dutch position in negotiations.

Most of the national emission ceilings proposed are stricter not only than the UN protocol, but also last year's proposal by the European Commission for an EU national emission ceilings directive (ENDS Daily 9 June 1999). For SO2 emissions, the report says, oil refineries would have to deliver the biggest cuts. For NOx, transport and industry would be the main targets, while transport, industry and consumers would have to contribute mostly to cuts in VOCs. Agriculture would have to make virtually all the cuts in NH3 emissions.

Dutch national emission ceilings, 2010:
        EU law   "Gothen   National  Advanced
       Proposal    burg"     Plus      Plus
SO2       50        46        42        34
NOx      238       248       226       210
VOC      156       178       164       146
NH3      104       108        99        84

Follow Up:
Dutch environment ministry, tel: +31 70 339 3939.

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