18 January 2018

2018 to see further government action on cleaner environment

In the field of environmental and energy law, 2018 is likely to bring more news on a few important legislative proposals: a bill on the closing of Dutch coal-fired power stations, and a bill for a new Climate Act. For now, not much is known about the exact content of these proposals. Additionally, a legislative project that will continue to play a role in 2018 is the new Environment and Planning Act. We also expect to see interesting developments in the area of public access to government information.

This article is part of our Crystal Ball Gazing series, in which we look ahead at possible developments in 2018.

Climate Act

A private members´ bill has been presented to the Dutch parliament. This bill – also known as the Climate Act – establishes a framework for developing policy aimed at an irreversible and gradual reduction of Dutch greenhouse gas emissions to reduce global warming and climate change. The bill aims to reduce current levels of greenhouse gas emissions (compared with 1990) by at least 55% by 2030, and at least 95% by 2050. According to the bill, the share of renewable energy sources should be 100% by 31 December 2050. The government must also issue a climate policy every five years, specifying its climate objectives and associated measures for the next five-year period.

The government is currently discussing whether this bill can form the basis for a widely supported Climate Act. The result of this discussion is expected in the first quarter of 2018.

Closing of Dutch coal-fired power stations

The coalition agreement of the new Dutch government provides for the closure of Dutch coal-fired power stations. According to the Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, this is non-negotiable. The Council of State has advised that the legal aspects of this closing can best be regulated in a separate legislative proposal; the government is expected to produce a bill on this subject at short notice, but the timeline is not yet known.

Environment and Planning Act

The introduction of a new environmental law system seems to be ever-changing and yet never-ending. The new Environment and Planning Act is the foundation of this new system. Previous editions of In context have looked at the possible changes that this law (and associated secondary legislation) could bring. These articles can be found here, here and here.

The entry into force of the new law, however, has been delayed once again, and will cost EUR 200 million extra. Last year, the planned date of entry into force was mid-2019; however, on 6 October 2017, the Minister wrote a letter to parliament explaining the new timing for the Environmental and Planning Act. The law is now intended to enter into force as of 1 January 2021.

In addition, it is entirely unclear what the impact will be of the transfer of responsibility for the new Environment and Planning Act to the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. This transfer seems to contradict the ultimate goal of the new Environment and Planning Act: an integrated approach to the environment.

Public access to governmental information

The fate of the open government bill – meant to replace the current Government Information (Public Access) Act – remains unclear. This private members´ bill proposes a significant extension of the scope of the public access regime. Under the bill, private legal entities can be designated when, for example, they represent a public task or have public shareholders. We already discussed the changes arising from this legislative proposal in In context. The legislative proposal has been adopted by the Second Chamber of the Dutch parliament; however, in 2016 research showed that the law is impracticable and will lead to high additional costs. Part two of this impact assessment began in 2017; in the meantime, the bill has been put on hold while the Minister and the members of parliament who proposed the bill discuss its future.