For Dutch citizens, changes made in environmental legislation means that more responsibility for protecting and preserving the environment will fall upon them.
In 2019 a new act to amalgamate numerous environmental laws is intended to come into effect. The acts objective is to simplify the current rules and increase transparency, thereby helping streamline private initiatives, according to government.nl.
The Dutch environmental legislation is currently composed of hundreds of different regulations for an array of different relevant spheres. The new act will behave as an Umbrella law, encompassing more environmental issues under one law and making it easier for citizens to understand legislative requirements.
The simplification of rules will encourage more citizens to put forward their private initiatives. One of the spokespersons of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment, Emrys Dijkhuis-Reuvers, said, “that these changes will contribute to citizens being more creative and vocal at the start of a project.”
Although less regulation allows for more creativity and ideas, the reduction of red tape also entails that less sustainable projects which would not have been approved prior to the changes, may be afterwards.
The new act will allow data from studies to be stored and considered valid for longer. This means that when citizens put forward new schemes, more previous studies can be referred to and they can save the time and resources of conducting a new one.
Though this aspect of the act will reduce costs, making it easier for private initiatives to move forward, environmental studies will no longer be as current. In some cases, this may lead to higher chances of adverse effects on the environment.
To tackle these dangers, Members of Parliament have signed a convention that allows citizens the right to object to projects in their personal areas. At an online ‘One-Stop-Shop’ that is currently under development, citizens must apply for a digital permit which must be approved by the municipality or province.
The ‘One-Stop-Shop’ will be a tool to inform citizens about upcoming projects and to help them effectively participate. Still, Liesbeth van Tongeren, member of Dutch National Parliament for GreenLeft, points out some of its flaws.
Van Tongeren said that the time in which citizens can respond to a project will be shorter than before. Citizens will no longer be able to bring forth objections to a judge once the window within which contestations can be made has passed.
Therefore, it also becomes the citizen’s prerogative to keep updated on the local projects in their personal areas and to act hastily when there are objections.
Whether these legislative changes will consolidate environmental protection remains to be seen. But one thing is sure, bringing the new Environment and Planning Act into effect means taking off the environmental protection training wheels for Dutch citizens.
The Netherlands will no longer have the same legal regulations to supervise Dutch initiatives. With the projects they choose, the methods in which they are being developed and by blowing the whistle on controversial projects, responsibility of environmental conservations falls on the Dutch people. Will they be up to the challenge?