‘Course book’ to bring the environment in order

Immediately The national environmental program (NMP) wants to steer the government towards a ‘transition to a sustainable economy and broad prosperity for all’, writes State Secretary Vivianne Heijnen (CDA) for Infrastructure and Water Management to the House of Representatives. Heijnen wants a social debate on the content of the NMP.

Explicit choices

The NMP must lead to ‘a healthy, clean and safe living environment’ by 2050. According to the Secretary of State, it requires ‘clear, explicit choices so that everyone knows what to do in the coming period.’ In the coming year, she announces, Heijnen will therefore, in conversation with residents, local authorities, companies and knowledge institutions ‘to determine the extra effort and measures needed to achieve the goal.’

Dozens of routes

According to Heijnen, there are already dozens of projects within her ministry that are showing good results. She mentions, among other things, the integrated drug policy, clean air agreement, inter-administrative program to strengthen the VTH system and the approach to environmental crime and environmental risks. NMP wants to strengthen and build on these processes.

Urgent action

The need for an integrated approach to an NMP is set out in the report attached to the letter Environment: lag and acceleration, where RIVM has listed which environmental problems are also at stake. Under the heading ‘urgent action’, RIVM mentions the following ‘social issues’: biodiversity recovery, climate change, zero pollution and the circular economy.

Natural pest control

Although the Secretary of State in his letter emphasizes that environmental policy has led to good results in recent years, the RIVM report focuses in particular on imminent dangers. RIVM notes: ‘The load-bearing capacity and resilience of the natural systems in the Netherlands have reached their limit and are increasingly falling short. There is a threat of irreparable damage. ‘ Soil depletion and pollution of soil, water and air, the report continues, cause “loss of natural capital, such as pollination, natural pest control and food production.” The annual environmental damage, including loss of biodiversity and agricultural productivity and health and life years, amounts to 31 billion euros, PBL has previously calculated.

Safe living environment

The national environmental vision and the national environmental policy framework form the basis of the NMP. According to Heijnen, NMP will be a ‘course book’: it describes the path to a healthy, clean and safe living environment in 2050, where health damage due to environmental pollution is insignificant. ‘ NMP does this “from three angles: ecosystems, living environment and economy.”

Earth under our feet

The first steps towards an NMP have now been taken. There is one Note the scope and level of detail, which indicates which topics SEA should deal with at NMP. there is also one Participation plan† Opinions can be given on both documents. In the Participation Plan, the ministry urges ‘everyone heartily to think about the plans for the future.’ According to the plan, it is about ‘the earth under our feet, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the environment we move, live, work and recreate in.’

Participatory value evaluation

In addition to the formal possibilities for submitting views, participation is possible through theme sessions, online response, integration sessions and ‘participatory value evaluation’. In the latter form, participants from previous rounds of participation may sit in the Secretary of State’s chair; then they see what mandatory goals there are, what choices to make, what goals with what advantages and disadvantages there are, what limitations and what budget. The ‘participants’ then make choices as if they were directors and explain these choices.


A national environmental policy plan was first published in 1989. The last national environmental policy plan is from 2001. Heijnen expects to send a draft NMP to the House by mid-2023.

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