NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 14:41
The government has no insight into thousands of nitrogen permits from livestock farms, according to research by the NOS. This may also include ‘dormant permits’ from farmers who have stopped and sell their permit to a party that will start emitting. Experts say that the actual nitrogen emissions could rise further as a result and that the cabinet’s nitrogen targets would be further out of sight.
There is already irritation in the House of Representatives about Schiphol Airport buying up farms in order to obtain a nitrogen permit. De Volkskrant reported last week that three of the livestock farms bought out by Schiphol were no longer active. Due to the lack of overview of the permits, the government is in the dark about how often this can happen in the future.
The court has ruled that nitrogen deposition in vulnerable nature areas may not increase any further, but in order to test this, the court looks at permits and not at actual emissions.
Resell nitrogen space
A company can resell its nitrogen space – the amount of nitrogen it is allowed to emit – in the currently very busy nitrogen market to another company. The rule is then: the new ‘owner’ may use seventy percent of the emissions, and the remaining thirty percent will expire. In theory, every time nitrogen space changes hands, less nitrogen ends up in nature.
But if companies resell unused nitrogen space, emissions actually increase, by a maximum of seventy percent. Raoul Beunen, university professor of the Open University, sees it happen more often. “You see that in industry, but also in road construction projects and housing projects, that livestock farms that have stopped for a long time earn money from the permit trade.”
Because governments allow this, “you are actually opening up a very large barrel of potential emissions, which no one can see.” As a result, emissions are increasing rather than decreasing, says Beunen.
Minister van der Wal
A spokesperson for Minister Van der Wal (Nature and Nitrogen) said in a response to NOS that selling nitrogen space from dormant permits is not always allowed. The condition is that the stable is still there and that the company could start again without permission.
The national government’s ambition to buy up farms on a large scale so that nitrogen emissions are reduced is mopping up while no one knows how far the tap is still open, experts say to NOS. According to them, it is impossible to structurally solve the nitrogen problems in the Netherlands without a good overview of all permits issued.
In November, Van der Wal wrote to the House of Representatives that she wants to restrict the sale of nitrogen space from dormant permits. According to her spokesperson, it is not yet possible to set conditions, but they are working on it.
What about nitrogen emissions?
Total nitrogen emissions are measured and modeled and are therefore known. The cabinet bases itself on this data when it makes nitrogen policy. However, provinces and municipalities have no insight into how much nitrogen space has been licensed in total. When selling unused nitrogen space, what matters is what is stated on the permit. The condition is that the stable has not already been demolished.
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