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Climate change

In the Netherlands, several laws and other initiatives are in place aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving energy efficiency. In September 2013, the Dutch government entered into a national Energy Agreement for Sustainable Growth with various stakeholders. The agreement outlines a long-term strategy for renewable growth in the Netherlands. Offshore wind power has been identified as one of the key technologies to achieving the renewable energy targets.

New global climate change ambitions have been set by the Paris Treaty of December 2015. In follow-up, in September 2016, two members of the Dutch parliament proposed a Climate Act to anchor these ambitions into Dutch legislation. The bill puts clear long-term targets in place: it requires a national greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 55 per cent in 2030 and a reduction of 95 per cent in 2050 (in comparison to the levels in 1990). It also requires that the share of renewable energy must be 100 per cent by the end of 2050. The bill also provides for new policy instruments, such as a climate change plan and budget, but does not stipulate how these targets must be met. It is therefore currently unclear how the proposed Climate Act, if adopted, would affect Dutch climate change policy.

The EU Energy Efficiency Directive 2012/27/EU has been implemented in the Activities Decree. Among others, companies are required to conduct energy audits (every four years) to identify energy-saving measures that could decrease energy consumption within their businesses. In addition, companies are required to implement all energy-saving measures with a return on investment period of five years or less. Also, as of 2023, every office building exceeding a floor area of 100 square metres must comply with the requirements of an energy performance certificate label C or higher (labels run from G up to A). If the building does not meet these minimum energy performance requirements, it may no longer be used for office purposes as of 2023.


As any other EU Member State, the Netherlands participates in the ETS for trading greenhouse gas emission allowances. The Dutch implementing laws are contained in the EMA, and require that listed facilities obtain a separate greenhouse gas emission permit from the Dutch Emissions Authority (NEa). Said permit will not impose emission limits, but instead will set out the framework for the facility's monitoring plan. Companies must monitor their emissions throughout the year in accordance with this plan, and annually report on their emissions by means of a verified emissions report. Subsequently, the participating facilities must surrender sufficient allowances to compensate the emissions of the previous year. In most cases, facilities are eligible for a quantity of free allowances, while further emission allowances may be obtained through auctions or transactions with other parties participating in the ETS. According to the website of the NEa, around 450 companies in the Netherlands participate in the ETS, including industrial sectors and energy companies. The aviation industry has also been a participant in the system since 2012. During the current third phase of the ETS (2013–2020), auctions gradually replace free allocation as the most important method for allocating allowances.

In future, the above-discussed (national) rules will be included in the new Environment and Planning Act.

ii Urgenda case

One of the most remarkable judgments relating to climate change is the landmark judgment of the District Court in The Hague of 24 June 2015. This judgment not only caught the attention of the Dutch media, but also that of the foreign media. The District Court in The Hague ruled that the state of the Netherlands must take more action to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions. More specifically, the state has to ensure that the Dutch greenhouse gas emissions in the year 2020 will be at least 25 per cent lower than those in 1990. This is the first time that a court has ordered a government to set higher climate change targets. Not surprisingly, the ruling has encountered criticism. According to some scholars, the District Court's ruling violates established case law of the Dutch Supreme Court, holding that a mandatory order to the legislature is fundamentally at odds with the constitutional role of the judiciary and is therefore not possible. Some scholars have even argued that climate change is a political question that should not be addressed in court at all. In September 2015, the Dutch government filed an appeal against the District Court's ruling.

The Court of Appeals in The Hague ruled on the appeal on 9 October 2018. It agreed with the District Court that the state must ensure that the Dutch greenhouse gas emissions in the year 2020 will be at least 25 per cent lower than those in 1990. The Court of Appeals therefore upheld the District Court's ruling. This was rather surprising and not expected by many scholars. The Dutch government recently announced that it will appeal the judgment of the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court.

iii Offshore Wind Energy Act

An Offshore Wind Energy Act (OWEA) entered into force on 1 July 2015 and provides for a completely new legal framework for the construction and operation of offshore wind farms. The OWEA aims to accelerate and streamline the decisions and authorisations required for an offshore wind farm. In short, the OWEA distinguishes between three stages of decision-making: the designation of areas for the construction of wind farms in the National Water Plan; the adoption of site decisions by the relevant ministers, specifying the exact location and the conditions under which a wind farm can be constructed and operated; and tendering an OWEA permit to a project developer granting the exclusive right to construct and operate the wind farm.

Following the successful tenders for the Borssele wind farm zones, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy recently completed, for the first time in the Netherlands, a tender for the development of an offshore wind farm without renewable energy state subsidies. The tender covered wind farm zones Hollandse Kust (Zuid), Sites I and II.