Dutch Coalition’s Climate Change Goals in Peril as Farm Party Resists Policies

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The Netherlands’ government coalition is in a fragile state due to a dispute over the government’s plan to cut nitrogen emissions by more than half by 2030. This comes after the country saw a surge in support for the populist Party for Farmers and Citizens in recent elections, which caused the Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s ruling coalition to lose 10 seats in the Senate election.

Seeking to resolve the debate, Rutte and the coalition plan to accelerate the nitrogen measures, however there is disagreement as to whether the date of 2030 or 2035 is to be aimed for. The leader of the Christian Democrats, Wopke Hoekstra, has said that he wants to renegotiate the coalition agreement while the leader of the Democratic 66, Sigrid Kaag, insists on the current 2030 date.

To try and quell the unrest, Rutte has set aside €24.3 billion for a voluntary, one-time buy-out for hundreds of nitrogen-emitting farms. Interestingly, the Christian Democrats, who typically attract rural voters, have seen their lowest ever vote in the Senate election as a result of the Farmer-citizen movement.

If the coalition were to collapse and new elections were to be called, the Farmer-Citizen Movement is likely to overtake the VVD party in parliament, according to a poll last week by Ipsos. Furthermore, this same poll showed that Rutte was the most unpopular member of his government.

Mark Rutte is the current Prime Minister of the Netherlands and leader of the liberal VVD party. He has been in office since 2010 and is the longest-serving Prime Minister, having been re-elected three times in a row. His party stands for centre-right liberalism, advocating for regional autonomy and popular democracy.

The VVD stands for Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy). It is the largest party in the Dutch House of Representatives and has been in power since 2010. The party is split into three main political streams: economic liberalism, social liberalism and conservatism. They focus mainly on economic growth, and support liberal values such as civil and political freedoms and women’s rights. This party seeks to uphold the environment and champion against climate change.

Rutte has been a staunch advocate for fighting climate change, though his plans to cut nitrogen emissions have been met with disdain by the party for Farmers and Citizens who feel that the measures are too strict. If the coalition is unable to come to an agreement and find a compromise, then it could lead to the collapse of Rutte’s party and the rise of the Farmer-Citizen Movement.