Netherlands to Lower Speed Limits in Effort to Cut Emissions

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (CN) – Daytime speed limits in the Netherlands will likely be reduced to 62 mph next year to combat nitrogen emissions.

A traffic sign indicating a speed limit of 120 kmh (75 mph) is pictured at the highway A59 close to Troisdorf, Germany. (Oliver Berg/dpa via AP, file)

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters on Wednesday that the new rule was “rotten” but that “we need to stop the Netherlands from grinding to a halt and unnecessarily losing jobs.”

His right-leaning VVD party was responsible for increasing the maximum speed limit from 100 kph to 130 kph, or 81 mph, in 2012, earning them the nickname “The Vroom Vroom Party.”

Under the proposed plan, starting in 2020, all highways in the Netherlands will carry a maximum speed limit of 100 kph, or 62 mph, between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. Outside of those hours, 130 kph can still be driven on highways that permit it. The government was actually working to increase the limits on certain roadways, but those plans have now been canceled.

The change is part of an effort to reduce nitrogen emissions after the country’s highest administrative court ruled in May that its permit system wasn’t compatible with European Union regulations.

The EU sets emissions limits for nitrous oxide and ammonia, among other pollutants, and as a result of the ruling, thousands of building projects have been halted.

Farmers have protested several times over the past few weeks over fears that new regulations will require them to cut the number of livestock, causing the worst traffic delays the country has ever experienced. The agricultural sector accounts for 46% of total nitrogen emissions.

Builders and others in the construction sector have also staged protests, calling for the government to restart building projects and compensate those who are currently without work.

The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment estimates that the speed limit reduction will allow for the building of 75,000 homes. The Netherlands is experiencing a housing shortage and the government has pledged to build thousands of houses to alleviate the problem.

But the speed reduction is only a short-term solution. The government is considering a number of other measures, including compensating farmers who want to quit farming, investing money in nature conservation and including an enzyme in cow feed which reduces their nitrogen emissions.

All four members of the current coalition government have agreed to the measure, but it will be debated in Parliament on Thursday.

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