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Frans Timmermans, the former European Commission climate chief and currently the leader of the left-wing bloc ahead of the upcoming Dutch elections, has ditched a previous commitment to halve nitrogen emissions by 2030.
Timmermans, who resigned in August from the European Commission to return to Dutch politics and vie for the prime minister’s post, said in a televised debate with the other party leaders in the Netherlands that he had changed his mind after meeting with young farmers.
Farmers in the Netherlands have expressed concerns about the industry’s future prospects since livestock is seen as the biggest emitter of nitrogen.
Under the Dutch law, nitrogen emissions have to be reduced by 50% by 2035. The outgoing cabinet led by Mark Rutte has proposed to bring the deadline for halving those emission to 2030.
The acceleration of the deadline sparked months of protests as farmers say they would be put out of business with the measures to slash those emissions in advance.
The need to reach an agreement with young farmers is more important than setting deadlines, Timmermans said in the debate ahead of the general election slated for November 22.
“We’re talking about specific years, but what we really need to talk about is nature,” Timmermans said, as quoted by Dutch media.
The coalition of Green Left and Labor parties that Timmermans leads is currently polling third in opinion polls.
The Netherlands has a strategy to reduce nitrogen emissions as “emissions of nitrogen oxides and ammonia have been too high in the Netherlands for many years,” the government says.
“Transport and industry are the main emitters of nitrogen oxides. Ammonia mainly comes from livestock manure and chemical fertilisers, which are used in the agriculture sector.”
Before returning to politics in the Netherlands, Timmermans was in charge of the European Green Deal. Maros Sefcovic succeeded Timmermans as the EU’s climate chief.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com