Nitrogen remains a persistent problem: according to the estimate of the Dutch Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), ammonia emissions will not decrease sufficiently to meet the government’s target.

The fact that things are going in the right direction does not mean that public health and nature quality problems are also solved. EU reduction targets “have been agreed to reduce these problems, but not to solve them”, the report says.

Although legal norms are supposed to have some effect, feasibility is also taken into account in the final decision. compromise. The World Health Organization concluded not so long ago that air pollution is harmful to health, even in small amounts.

European and Dutch objectives

One of the most notorious forms of air pollution is particulate matter, and in particular the finest fraction of it, PM2.5, with a maximum diameter of 2.5 micrometers. According the European Environment Agency air pollution causes more than 300,000 premature deaths in the EU every year. Most of this is due to fine particles, followed at a distance by nitrogen oxides.

In addition to the substances mentioned above, there are also European standards for sulfur dioxide and volatile organic compounds, which are used as solvents, for example. It is expected that the emissions of the five substances studied will remain below the European standard in the coming years.

In addition to the European standards, the Netherlands has formulated separate reduction targets for the two best-known forms of reactive nitrogen, namely nitrogen oxides and ammonia. This can be explained in particular by the high ammonia emissions in the Netherlands, coming from intensive livestock farming.

While nitrogen oxide emissions are estimated to be reduced enough to meet the national target, this is not the case for ammonia. Not even remotely: the government’s target for ammonia reduction is “out of reach”.

What goes up, also goes down

Nitrogen emission is one thing, for Natura 2000 areas it is what comes down from the air: deposition. RIVM will calculate the deposit based on the emissions estimated from this estimate. Results will follow later this year.

By 2030, 74% of vulnerable natural areas must be brought below the critical nitrogen deposition value. Whether this government objective is achieved does not only depend on How muchbut also of Or emissions are reduced. Since nitrogen – especially ammonia – mainly precipitates near the source, reducing emissions near nature reserves is most effective.

“Buy back is expensive”

What can contribute to the reduction of ammonia emissions is the National Breeding Grounds Rupture Scheme (Lbv), or buy-back scheme. This will contribute more than 2 kilotonnes to the estimated reduction in ammonia emissions in 2030, out of a total of approximately 100 kilotonnes.

“That’s the upper limit, the most positive scenario, because the scheme is voluntary,” warns Emma van der Zanden of the Dutch Environmental Assessment Agency. “The assumption is that the budget can actually be spent, i.e. enough companies really shut down. That doesn’t mean buyout deals often don’t work as well and as well. quickly than expected. The buyout is expensive.”

The projection predicts a slightly larger effect from the use of low-protein feed (reduction of 3.5 kilotonnes in 2030). But all these figures are surrounded by great uncertainties, is quick to say van der Zanden. Also with regard to alternative animal feed, it remains to be seen whether enough farmers will start using it.

Only sufficiently elaborate policy has been calculated based on expected effects in 2030. The National Program for Rural Areas (NPLG) “is not yet sufficiently precise to be included in emissions estimates,” the report says. In the NPLG, the objectives for nature, climate and water quality are addressed integrally, that is the idea.

The authors do not want to venture into an estimate of the contribution of these measures not included, of which the NPLG is the most important, to the reduction of ammonia emissions in 2030.

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