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Will the next Dutch parliament implement a climate change act?

Economic Comment

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  • The implementation of a climate change act depends on the next parliament
  • Recent polls show high chances that the future coalition will be against a climate change act
  • However it is still possible that majority in the lower house will support the climate change act. Based on the polls there is a small majority in the virtual lower house that supports the climate change act.
  • An adjustment in the law draft may draw current opponents over the line
Table 1: Supporters and opponents of a climate change act
Table 1: Supporters and opponents of a climate change actSource: Rabobank, based on party programs

Nearly all political parties emphasize the importance of honoring the existing commitments the Netherlands made in the Paris agreement (UN, 2015). How and at what speed the parties are planning on honoring this commitment differs per party. The VVD for instance states that climate change is an issue that has to be tackled internationally, and not with extra Dutch rules and subsidies. Therefor they do not support the climate change act. Table 1 gives an overview of the opponents and supporters of the climate change act. The climate change act translates the climate change goals made in the Paris agreement into a Dutch legal framework. The following three main goals are mentioned in the law draft made by the Greens (GroenLinks), Social Democrats (PvdA), Socialist Party (SP), Liberal Democrats (D66) and the Christian Party (CU):

  • In 2030 the greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 55% relative to 1990.
  • In 2050 the greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 95% relative to 1990.
  • In 2050 the share of renewable energy will be 100%

Climate change needs political action to prevent irreversible problems in the future. But politics can be mutable and international commitments are usually not binding. The government will be able to conduct consistent policy on climate change when the goals are captured in an act.

Chances are high that the majority of the coalition will not support a climate change act…

In September 2016 Greens (Klaver), Social Democrats (Kuiken), Socialist Party (Roemer), Liberal Democrats (Van Veldhoven) and the Christian Party (Dik-Faber) submitted an act draft, under the assumption that the lower house would be able to vote before the elections (act draft, 2016). In the current upper and the lower house the majority is a supporter of a climate change act, due to the support of the Reformed Party (SGP) and the Animal Party (PvdD).

However, because of lots of comments on the content of the act draw, the vote on the climate law is lifted over the election. So it depends on the political distribution after March the 15th. The upper house is no barrier, until May 2019 there will be a majority of supporters of the climate change act. The lower house may cause difficulty. The current polls show that there are 14 possible coalitions (see figure 1). This took into account that parties do not want to govern with the Freedom Party (PVV), the fact that the Socialist Party (SP) does not want to govern with the Liberal Party (VVD) and that it is desirable for a coalition to have a majority in the upper house.

Figure 1: Most coalitions are opponents of the climate change act
Figure 1: Most coalitions are opponents of the climate change actSource: Rabobank

In eleven of the fourteen coalitions The Liberal Party (VVD) and the Christian Democrats (CDA) will be in the coalition. This means that, based on the latest polls, they will have more that 50% of the votes in a coalition. Both parties are opponents of the climate change act draft. The other three optional coalitions do have a majority that support the climate change act. When the majority in a coalition has an opinion about something it is likely that this will be the opinion of the whole coalition.

….but the race is not yet run

So the new coalition will probably have a majority with opponents of the climate change act. This lowers the chance on the act, but there still is a fair chance. When the coalition is mainly against the act, it is still possible that there is a majority in the lower house that will vote for the implementation of the climate change act. Based on the most recent polls, there is a small majority in the lower house that supports the climate change act (FD, 2017). However it remains unsure until March 15th. Besides, parties may change their minds. At this moment the Freedom Party (PVV), Liberal Party (VVD), Christian Democrats (CDA) and the Elderly Party (50Plus) are opponents of the climate change act, but the content of the act may change. It could be possible that one of these parties will change their minds if the content is more moderate and more in line with the Paris agreements.

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