the Netherlands is a wealthy European country with unique vulnerabilities to climate change. The country is creating proactive responses to anticipated rise in sea levels and increased flooding. It is working to meet the Kyoto Protocol, creating new govern ment offices, and spending significant sums of money to make itself climate-proof. The country hopes that, through international agreements and domestic innovation, it will meet the challenges of climate change.
The Netherlands is a prosperous, small, and densely populated river delta country in Northern Europe, with a parliamentary democracy, and a 2007 population of 16.5 million. It has the 16th largest economy in the world. The gross domestic product (GDP) in 2006 was approximately $688 billion. It ranks 10th in the world in GDP per capita. Its economy depends on industry, particularly metal and chemical processing, petroleum refining, and electrical machinery. It is also a region of intensive agricultural and horticultural use. It takes advantage of its water infrastructure and its geographic location at the center of Europe's transportation network.
The Netherlands is one of the countries that may suffer the most from climatic change. In the Netherlands, 26 percent of the land lies below sea level, and two-thirds of the country's population lives below sea level. The Dutch government is deeply concerned about the national and global consequences of climate change. The government faces immediate threats on at least three fronts: rising North Sea levels on its coast line, increased risk of flooding from melting glaciers, and heavy rain and droughts that can cause sea and river dikes to subside and crack. The Agricultural Minister has stated that the effects of global warming are already seen in the form of milder winters, warmer summers, and altered rainfall patterns. Dutch policymakers are planning on sea level rise in the coming century.
Internationally, the Dutch government is a vocal leader on the issue of climate change and wants the European Union to actively contribute to furthering the process leading to more international agreements. The Netherlands is one of over 170 countries that ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Rio de Janeiro, 1992). The country is a member of the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and has signed the Kyoto Protocol. The Netherlands' emissions reduction obligation is 6 percent. The country is committed to meeting this goal and will employ Joint Implementation (JI), Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Emissions Trading, in addition to domestic policy.
The National Environmental Policy Plan (NMP) sets Dutch environmental policy. The NMP aims to cut all forms of pollution 80 to 90 percent in one generation. The National Inventory Report, "Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Netherlands 1990-2003," published in 2005, concluded that total CO2-equiva-lent emissions of the six greenhouse gases together increased in 2003 by about one percent relative to 1990. In 2005, emissions equaled 214 billion kg. of carbon dioxide. The Minister of Housing, Spatial Planning, and Environment claims that the country is meeting emission reduction goals, but more work needs to be done to meet the Kyoto goals. Some key Dutch cities and infrastructure facilities are particularly vulnerable to rising seas and flooding, such as The Hague, Schiphol Airport, and the Port of Rotterdam. In 2006, the government approved a new $19 billion increase in spending on water defense systems over the next 20 years. This is in addition to another $4 billion for other special related projects and the $1.36 billion for annual maintenance of water defense systems currently in place.
In July 2007, the Dutch Cabinet earmarked €50 million for a new climate change center over five years. In some locations, giant sea-blocking doors called sluices will be added 2008-13 to fend off rising seas and storms. The National Spatial Planning and Climate Adaptation Programme (ARK) is charged with making the Netherlands climate-proof, starting in 2008. Engineers are discussing the creation of breaker islands off the country's North Sea cost. Pumping sand into strategic locations offshore, where North Sea currents will sweep the sand into place and bulk up the dunes, can create breaker islands. Similar techniques could create a series of small islands off the coast. The Netherlands is also working to develop a hydropole, a city that can live on the rising waters. Discussions in The Hague are also underway about a massive evacuation drill to be held in 2008, should sea defenses fail.
SEE ALSO: Abrupt Climate Changes; European Union; Floods; Kyoto Protocol; Sea Level, Rising.
BIBLIOGRAPHY. Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, www.mnp.nl (cited July 2007); Netherlands Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning, and the Environment, www.international.vrom.nl (cited July 2007).
John O'Sullivan Gainesville State College
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