Nature and Nitrogen Policy

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

It's endlessly interesting how different countries name their great offices of state.  Indeed, the USA has a Secretary of State (as we did in Elizabethan days) who heads up the State Department whereas in the UK we make do with a Foreign Secretary in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which neatly expresses everyone else as other and foreign.

France has a Department of the Interior with a Minister, whereas we have a Home Secretary in the Home Office.  But Home is an odd word in Britain where we have Home Counties and BBC radio used to have a Home Service before Radio 4, and every great estate used to have a Home Farm.

And so I noted with interest that the Dutch have a Minister for Nature and Nitrogen Policy whose remit is to halve nitrogen emissions by 2030.  The budget for doing this is €24bn which will be used to put farmers – up to 3000 of them – out of work.

This is deliberate policy unlike in the UK where if farmers go bust it's not by design. The Dutch government’s proposal to cut nitrogen emissions is designed to comply with the European Union’s emission-reduction rules.  An article by Thomas Fazi in Unherd notes that

"agriculture currently accounts for almost half of the country’s output of carbon dioxide, yet the Netherlands is responsible for less than 0.4% of the world’s emissions.  No wonder many Dutch fail to see how such negligible returns justify the complete overhaul of the country’s farming sector, which is already considered one of the most sustainable in the world: over the past two decades, water dependence for key crops has been reduced by as much as 90%, and the use of chemical pesticides in greenhouses has been almost completely eliminated."

Rather astonishingly, given its size, the country is Europe’s largest exporter of meat and, according to National Geographic, the second-largest agricultural exporter in the world (the US is top).  The nitrogen-cutting plan, therefore, is likely to cause food exports to decrease at a time of food shortage.  It's not clear that this is what was intended by the green-tinged EUROcrats.
The result has been uproar and a political backlash with a new-ish 'farmers party' surging in local elections.  This is yet another example of greener than thou progressive politics putting a government way ahead of its electorate and suffering because of it.  Irritating things electorates; if only they could be abolished, or replaced as the East Germans were advised to do back in the 1950s, then the smooth transition to net zero nirvana could accelerate.
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