News - October 13, 2011

‘The government doesn't produce the goods'

The Dutch cabinet is offering support to citizens, companies and local government in implementing local sustainability projects such as those aiming at saving energy or generating sustainable energy. The projects are dubbed ‘Green Deals' and 50 such deals have been signed already. Good idea?

Arthur Mol, professor of Environmental Policy: ‘You cannot of course meet the 21st century's sustainability challenges with deals of this kind. I don't see any coal-fired power stations being closed down, nor any stimulation of sustainable energy at anything like the level in Germany and Denmark, and I don't see the Netherlands playing an active role in ensuring compliance with international environmental agreements. We are still behind.
The Netherlands would do better to copy German policy on environment and sustainability. There the government actively stimulates the development of sustainable energy. And China, for example, is doing so too. There are enough examples of an active government that takes the lead and doesn't just facilitate. Is there a lack of money or ambition? To some extent, they go together of course. If you don't have any ambitions, there is no money available either.
On the other hand it is good that there is some action and new initiatives in the field of sustainability. And that active citizens and companies implement sustainability. Certainly in a period when the government doesn't produce the goods. Because of this, the Green Deals are a logical consequence of the low priority this cabinet gives to sustainability and the lack of expertise in this area in the ministries. They base their approach on a new governance model in which the government only facilitates while social actors steer developments.
Actually, progress on the environment has not been led by the Dutch government for the past ten years. Any progress is thanks to the European Union - without the EU we would really have fallen on our faces in our environment and nature policy. But the absence of government does have one positive consequence: society is becoming active, with companies and citizens taking the reins in sustainable development. The Green Deals capitalize on that potential.'