By Elizabeth Aardewijn April 15 2020
The Netherlands has a green image when it comes to lifestyle and innovation. We ride bikes, run our trains on wind energy, and innovate in green technology. However, the statistics on the Netherlands’ share in sustainable activity show quite the opposite. Here are four reasons why the Netherlands should not have a green image.
1. Renewable energy
When it comes to implementing new energy technology and limiting greenhouse gas emissions, the Netherlands. Even though the Netherlands has ambitious goals for new implementations of sustainable energy generation, measured steps towards the goal fail to appear. With a share of 7.4% in renewable energy in 2018, the Netherlands produces the least amount of renewable energy of countries in the EU. With the technological capabilities and the economic opportunities this country has, it is questionable why the percentage is not higher by now.
European countries produce a share of 18% renewable energy on average. With 7.4%, the Netherlands produces less than half of what other countries produce. This percentage is shockingly low. The amount renewable energy produced is estimated to grow though, with 3% to 11.4% over the next year. This increase is attributed to planned off-shore wind parks and solar energy. In my opinion, the Netherlands should look at Sweden, leader in renewable energy. With 54% total share in renewable energy, this country is an example to the Dutch.
The Netherlands has been building advanced coal burning power plants over the last years. Coals is still a large share of energy production, with a little over 13% of energy production from coal. The power plant was recently build in Eemshaven to facilitate high efficiency energy generation. Knowing that we will need to close down coal burning power plants over the next decades to reduce carbon emissions, these newly build plants are doomed to become stranded assets. It is hard to believe that the Netherlands has been building new power plants in the face of our current situation. More and more, it seems that the Netherlands is working against sustainable development for economic growth, instead of fostering a new energy climate. The next chart shows the share of renewable energy for each EU member state.
2. Forest area
The country is second-last only to Malta on percentage of forest area. The Netherlands was once fully covered in forest, drift-sand, and swamps before settlers started cultivating the land 4.000 BC. The amount of forest area in the Netherlands is currently only 11.18%. But Holland is not the only country that lost immense amounts of wooded land. Europe’s forests have decreased with over 50% over the last 6.000 years, mostly due to demand for agricultural land. The country does plan to increase their forest area by 25% over the next thirty years. This could be a significant contribution to reducing the country’s CO2 emissions. Below are the stats on forest area for each EU member state.
3. Intensive farming
The Netherlands is a big producer of meat, and produces about 1% of total global production. Per hectare utilised agricultural area, the country has the highest density of livestock. This is not strange, considering the Netherlands is also the most densely populated country in Europe. However, most of that is exported to other countries. For example, 75% of produced pig meat is exported to countries in and outside the EU. Production could thus be a lot less intensive (and less harmful) if Holland were to produce merely for their own sake. Below are the statistics of livestock density for EU member states.
Take for example the pig production sector. Currently the country hosts about 12 million pigs. This produces about 18 million kilo nitrogen emissions, almost 10% of Holland’s total nitrogen emissions. The amount of pigsties has reduced significantly from 14.000 to 4.000 over the last 20 years. However, the number of pigsties is compensated with bigger farms, so called ‘mega farms’. This means that we have a more or less stable amount of pigs despite the decrease in swineries. Below the number of pigsties, pigs, and pigs per pigsty over the last 20 years are shown.
4. Import petroleum and natural gas
As if that wasn’t enough, the Netherlands also has one of the largest shares in import of petroleum and natural gas. The country follows right after Italy and Spain, with a share of 12.1% import. The country is still largely dependent on fossil fuels, so their place in the list does not come as a surprise. Let’s hope that the investment in off-shore wind parks and solar energy can offset large fossil fuel imports over the coming years. Petroleum and natural gas import stats are showed in the table below.
Concluding, the Netherlands is a low performing country (if not the lowest) in sustainable ventures in the EU. Away with the idea that bikes and wind-powered trains make a country green. With the Netherlands’ embarrassing repertoire of pollution generating and global-warming stimulating economic activities, it seriously needs to step up it’s green game. What we need is more climate and sustainability experts in government positions to help enforce strict policies and move the Netherlands towards a greener future.