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Prof. Henk Moll: ‘Interest in sustainability will continue to grow even in a right-wing cabinet.’

24 August 2010

A cabinet formed by the VVD and the CDA with the tacit support of the PVV will contribute little to the sustainability of Dutch society, expects professor of Natural Resources Henk Moll of the University of Groningen. ‘But we don’t have to be all that sombre either. There’s a limit to the harm a right-wing cabinet can do, the most they can achieve will be delay. In addition, local and regional levels will continue to work hard on sustainability.’

If the VVD, CDA and PVV succeed in forming a coalition, they will not be taking many progressive measures to stimulate the sustainability of Dutch society, expects Professor Moll. One of the important issues that a right-wing cabinet will ignore is what policy needs to be followed with regard to factory farming. Moll: ‘What’s the next step with our meat production processes? The CDA is heavily influenced by the agricultural lobby and won’t want to interfere, the VVD doesn’t want to regulate anything and the PVV will be in favour of cheap meat for the man in the street. As a result nothing will change and an important social issue will be ignored.’

No sustainable energy

Moll sees the same sort of danger looming for the transition to sustainable energy. ‘According to Mark Rutte, windmills are not turned by wind but by grants. The VVD doesn’t seem to want to think seriously about how to stimulate sustainable energy. And the CDA wants to curtail grants for sustainable energy, if you can rely on what Maria van der Hoeven has said about that.’ And all this with the solution within reach: German policy, whereby the generation of green electricity is paid for by a surcharge on the non-renewable electricity price, has been very effective for the last ten years. Moll: ‘The Dutch policy is way past its sell-by date. However, whether a right-wing cabinet will want to model itself on the champion of sustainable energy, Germany, is most unlikely.’

Road pricing system not on the cards

In the area of traffic and mobility, too, Moll expects stagnation under a right-wing cabinet: all three of the negotiating parties are against any road pricing system. Moll: ‘Although you can lay down more asphalt, all you’re doing is shifting the traffic problem to the cities, which is where all the cars eventually end up. You can only fight traffic congestion by investing seriously in public transport and restricting mobility. And the only way to create room for that is if we introduce a road pricing system. And this has nothing to do with left-wing politics, however much the VVD, CDA and PVV want to create that impression.’

Climate, nuclear power stations

There are two other points where a right-wing cabinet can’t do as much harm, expects Moll: the climate issue and the construction of new nuclear power stations. ‘Policy to reduce CO2 emissions comes from Brussels, and a Dutch cabinet can add or subtract little from it. We’d only look a bit ridiculous if a new cabinet was to start being sceptical about climate issues.’ The Netherlands also plays a very minor role in nuclear power issues, in the opinion of the professor. Worldwide, an enormous number of new nuclear power stations are being planned and only four or five companies are capable of building them. Moll: ‘Small countries are always at the back of the queue and it’s relatively more expensive. Ideologically speaking, the CDA, VVD and PVV will reach agreement in the field of nuclear power, but they won’t get much further than making plans.’

Not that sombre

So not much progress need be expected in the field of sustainability from The Hague in the event of a right-wing cabinet. But according to Moll it’s not all sombre news. ‘You don’t always need The Hague to stimulate sustainability – that’s been proven under the Balkenende cabinets.’ Dozens of municipalities and a few provinces are already striving to become carbon-neutral without ‘The Hague’ encouraging them in any way whatsoever. Moll: ‘On a national level, sustainability is an abstract concept, but at local and regional levels it is anything but. Fewer cars in a housing estate immediately improves the liveability. Tenants immediately profit if housing associations insulate their houses and build energy-efficient new ones. Whatever cabinet we get, society’s interest in sustainability will continue to grow.’

Curriculum vitae

Henk Moll (1952) studied physics in Groningen. From 1981-1984 and 1987-1991 he was a researcher associated with the Centre for Energy and Environmental Studies (IVEM) of the University of Groningen. In 1992 he became a university lecturer and gained his PhD a year later. In 2004 he was appointed associate professor of Natural Resources in relation to sustainable production at the IVEM. Moll conducts a great deal of practical environmental research, nationally as well as internationally, and in cooperation with other disciplines such as psychology and public administration.

Note for the press

Contact Henk Moll

Last modified:15 September 2017 3.10 p.m.
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