Dutch parliament votes to close down countrys coal industry
27 September 2016 | Mitigation
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.
Source: The Guardian