Speech | 07-09-2022
Speech by Minister Van der Wal (Nature and Nitrogen) during the closing conference of LIFE IP Delta Nature on Wednesday 7 September 2022 in Groeneveld Castle in Baarn.
Ladies and gentlemen,
After almost 6 years with LIFE IP Delta Nature, you can now ‘collect the network’. You often hear the expression in the habitat where we all spend far too much time, the office habitat.
If we retrieve the net quite literally in the Dutch delta nature, the result is quite worrying. Fish, birds, insects: they just disappear there.
We are all doing our very best, for example with programs related to Natura 2000 and the Water Framework Directive, but it is not enough to restore biodiversity in the great waters. The ecosystems in and around large bodies of water are still not functioning well enough. Shorebirds find too little food there, there is no healthy relationship between young and old fish, and a select group of benthic animals dominates.
This fits into the bigger picture of nature in our country. We have the dubious honor of being at the bottom of Europe when it comes to putting our internationally protected nature in a favorable condition.
This can be said with sadness, resignation or even shame – for me it is an incentive to become even more active for nature restoration. I am happy that I also find that enthusiasm in you as partners and involved parties in LIFE IP Deltanature.
Let’s pick it up again and now look at the capture of almost 6 years of LIFE IP Delta Nature. Then we first see the innovative, different way of looking at the Nature Gains Plan. Don’t focus on specific species or habitats, but zoom out to the bigger picture of animals, plants, soil types, water and all the connections and interactions between them.
We call this larger whole the ecosystem of the great waters. That ecosystem is under pressure due to our narrow boundaries of nature reserves and our current use and management of the large water bodies. Only if we make our country’s ecosystems stronger and more resilient will all of nature benefit, including endangered species.
If you look at the large water bodies from the perspective of the Nature Benefit Plan, you will see more clearly which ecosystems are characteristic and promising for the Dutch delta nature. With the view of the Natural Gains Plan, you also learn to look a bit like an animal.
If you resemble a beach bird, you will see how the ideal delta nature can be a roadside restaurant for a quick bite, or a comfortable place for a longer stay, to breed or hibernate. If you look like a fish, you will see how the Dutch delta nature offers opportunities to become the best nursery and the most beautifully decorated children’s room.
The broad view also helps to see beyond the pipes, partitions and borders that still exist far too often between people, organizations and governments. After all, you first zoom out, look at the larger ecosystem, make an inventory of what is needed for healthy, future-proof ecosystems, and only then do you make an inventory of which people from which organizations have a role in protecting and restoring these . ecosystems. And then you bring those people together to rule against nature. Also that lesson for governancee is the profit from 6 years of LIFE IP Delta Nature, which we have just heard from Donné Slangen.
So steer together and it’s about making choices. This in itself is nothing new, because we also made elections in the last century, certainly in the period after the Second World War. We chose dykes, dams, canals, pumps and pumping stations. And with good reason. It made our country safer, provided fresh water, increased agricultural yields and intensified shipping. The Netherlands became a master on the drawing board for some interests, but also erased more and more nature reserves and natural processes.
And now we see the consequences. Not only is nature in bad shape, and we struggle with drying out, salinization and the loss of characteristic species and habitats, our own healthy living environment is also under pressure. As the climate continues to change, these processes will become more and more difficult.
To initiate the change, we will create robust ecosystems, with a lot of variation, cross-connections and interactions between species and their habitats. It provides a robustness with which nature itself can absorb disturbances and can withstand a beating again.
The amazing thing is: there is a hardware store where the building blocks for a strong and resilient nature are readily available. And it is the dynamics of the delta nature itself with its tides, water level variations, sand and clay, transitions in current speeds, salt and fresh water. They will help with the recovery.
We Dutch have learned for centuries to bend water and land systems to our will, resulting in the loss of nature. Now we must use that knowledge to let nature take its course.
And to stay within the limits of what water and soil in an area can handle in everything we do. In other words, functions follow the water and soil systems. Because whoever opposes nature will ultimately hinder himself. As I said: you must have the courage to make courageous choices.
Therefore, a favorable state of nature should be the starting point right from the start of the political process. So you don’t have to repair the damage afterwards, after a legal assessment. Unfortunately, we have just a little too much experience with that in recent years. No, let’s put the cart before the cart again. The costs outweigh the benefits.
When making choices, one must be very critical of the economic exploitation of nature. Not everything can be done in all places at once. In other words: if there are no more fish swimming, the fisherman can also pack. On the other hand, it also means that once the balance is restored, economic opportunities will again increase.
Making choices can be a struggle, for example with ecological dilemmas. What are you allowed according to the rules? What should you do for the sake of the dry and wet nature? Tough trade-offs and there is no time to study forever. We just have to get started. Experiment, show courage and even dare to make mistakes. A trend break that can be partly attributed to LIFE IP Delta Nature. Thank you very much for that.
Making choices is also a struggle with each other. This is also a lesson from LIFE IP Delta Nature. If you don’t have the governance right, you get entangled in the tangle of all the layers of government, of nature management organizations, water boards, farmers, lawyers, vacationers, etc., and so on. While we need each other so badly.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The web has been downloaded. The insights of the past 6 years are so valuable – we don’t want to throw them away. But it should be included in all programs that work to improve nature, also in rural areas. After all, the ecosystem in our delta is limitless.
I will highlight 2 programs that will further work on this. These are the programmatic approach to large waters and LIFE IP All4Biodiversity. I would like to pass on the insights from LIFE IP Delta Nature to the representatives of these programs as included in the publications ‘Het Natuurprofitplan’ and ‘Together against nature’.
I am sure you will benefit from it!