Report D66-Focusgroep Nitrogen: current banding doomed to failure

The current generic approach to the nitrogen problem is doomed to failure. This is stated by the Nitrogen Focus Group together with nitrogen professors Han Lindeboom and Johan Sanders (affiliated to Wageningen UR) in a note on the approach.

The focus group was set up by the national D66 to investigate the problem and states that the Netherlands has a short- and long-term nitrogen problem. ‘It is clear that the amount of nitrogen entering the air, soil and water must be reduced.’

The working group argues for a different approach to the cabinet, of which the D66 is a part. For example, the group believes that the concentrations should be recalculated. Adaptation must also be applied to the square kilometer for agriculture and nature.

The report has been circulating for some time, but has now also been published. It was cited by BBB and VVD, among others. The Farmers Defense Force also recently referred to the memo. Lindeboom was recently proclaimed Prime Minister of the Free Republic of Tessel, an environment without a nitrogen problem, as a playful act. The focus group has written a supplement to the content of the first in another note.

Integrated approach

The focus group writes that ‘only with an integrated and inclusive approach can various aspects of the nitrogen problem, healthy nature, sufficient food for all and a varied landscape be justified’. The group also states that drastic reductions in nitrogen are also possible if investment is made in the refinement of newly available technologies. If a number of conditions for circular agriculture are met, then it is not necessary to reduce the number of livestock.

The group also advises that the latest proposals from Erisman & Strootman, van Natuurmonumenten, Natuur & Milieu, LTO Nederland, VNO-NCW, MKB-Nederland and Bouwend Nederland, plus the above building blocks, should be put together to create an optimal approach . The group states that Dutch farmers and knowledge are badly needed to produce enough protein.

The nitrogen focus group’s main recommendations are: Correct calculations of the RIVM model, provide tailored solutions on the square kilometer for agriculture and nature and change the protein composition in food for animals and humans. In the report, they describe the twelve building blocks to reach a solution.

1. There is an inaccuracy in the RIVM model, correct it so that nitrogen space is created in the short term. The RIVM believes that politicians should take a stand on this.

2. The national legal approach to the nitrogen problem has become extremely complex, relying too much on percentage contributions from sources and leading to local ecological problems. The group comes up with proposals for practical solutions.

3. Nitrogen production and consumption is a global problem, with humans far exceeding our planet’s carrying capacity. In order to feed all humans within the planet’s limits with sufficient protein, we need to reduce our current nitrogen consumption from 24 kg per person per year to 9-12 kg pp/year2.

4. Nitrogen deposition, on the other hand, is mainly a natural problem over short distances, so choose a chocolate flake instead of a chocolate paste approach, i.e. for a local and not a national approach.

5. Nitrogen point sources have an acute effect on the nearby environment. Local sources and nearby sensitive natural areas must be better mapped.

6. Learn from a large penguin colony with very high ammonia emissions that there are large short-range effects on the leeward side.

7. Nitrogen is part of a complex chemical and ecological cycle. Consider, for example, the combination of CO2 and NOx emissions from internal combustion engines.

8. With local nature, take more into account different processes in the N cycle and other factors that also determine biodiversity, such as water management, landscaping, grazing, pesticides and maintenance.

9. The Dutch nature is man-made. The Netherlands’ nature policy is driven more economically than ecologically and has different approaches. If you want to maintain a sensitive nature, you have to make choices and stick to them.

10. The fundamental challenge is to see ecology and engineering as two sides of the same coin and to connect them through interdisciplinary scientific collaboration.
11. Also look at areas in the Netherlands where nature is doing well.

12. Various technologies are available in agriculture that can significantly reduce NH3 emissions to the atmosphere across the entire livestock sector: for example feed composition, manure treatment and more efficient use of agricultural raw materials through biorefinery. Apply these as much as possible, which immediately contributes to short-term solutions. Dutch farmers and science are needed to produce enough protein, also globally.

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