Climate change: Netherlands on brink of banning sale of petrol-fuelled cars

'We need to phase out CO2 emissions and we need to change our pattern of using fossil fuels if we want to save the Earth,' says a Dutch Labour Party member

Jess Staufenberg
Friday 19 August 2016 10:27 BST
An electric Tesla car recharges on the banks of a canal in Amsterdam. The Netherlands saw an all-time high in electric cars in December this year
An electric Tesla car recharges on the banks of a canal in Amsterdam. The Netherlands saw an all-time high in electric cars in December this year (Rex Features)

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Europe appears poised to continue its move towards cutting fossil fuel use as the Netherlands joins a host of nations looking to pass innovative green energy laws.

The Dutch government has set a date for parliament to host a roundtable discussion that could see the sale of petrol- and diesel-fuelled cars banned by 2025.

If the measures proposed by the Labour Party in March are finally passed, it would join Norway and Denmark in making a concerted move to develop its electric car industry.

It comes after Germany saw all of its power supplied by renewable energies such as solar and wind power on one day in May as the economic powerhouse continues to phase out nuclear energy and fossil fuels.

And outside Europe, both India and China have demanded that citizens use their cars on alternate days only to reduce the exhaust fume production which is causing serious health problems for the populations of both nations.

The consensus-oriented parties of the Netherlands are set to consider a total ban on petrol and diesel cars in a debate on 13 October.

Richard Smokers, principle adviser in sustainable transport at the Dutch renewable technology company TNO, said the Dutch government was committed to meeting the Paris climate change agreement to reduce greenhouse emissions to 80 per cent less than the 1990 level. The plan requires the majority of passenger cars to be run on CO2-free energy by 2050.

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"Dutch cities still have some problems to meet existing EU air quality standards and have formulated ambitions to improve air quality beyond these standards," he told The Independent, adding that the government had at the same time been reluctant to implement strict policies on the environment.

"The current government embraces long term targets and strives at meeting EU requirements, but is hesistant about proposing 'strong' policy measures.

"Instead it prefers to facilitate and stimulate initiatives from stakeholders in society."

If the law to ban the sale of new fossil-fuel cars by 2025 passes, a significant move will have been made towards phasing out all petrol and diesel cars by 2035, added Dr Smokers.

His words come after Jan Vos, a member of the country's Labour Party, hailed the success of the proposed ban in passing through the Netherland's lower parliament.

"We need to phase out CO2 emissions and we need to change our pattern of using fossil fuels if we want to save the Earth," he told media site Yale Climate Connections. He added that electric cars needed to be affordable.

"Transportation with your own car shouldn't be something that only rich people can afford."

But a spokesperson for the Netherland's Department for Climate, Air and Energy said the law was not guaranteed to pass after discussions are resumed in October.

"The proposal is being considered, but there is still opposition to it," they told The Independent.

According to Quartz, sales of electric cars have surged in the Netherlands with an all-time high last December. Meanwhile, the country has one of the lowest levels of CO2 emissions from new cars in the European Union.

Elsewhere in Europe, Norway has hit its target of selling 50,000 electric cars three years ahead of its own target, in part owing to strong financial incentives to purchase the more environmentally friendly model.

Electric vehicles have been exempted from VAT and purchase tax, which would otherwise add 50 per cent to the cost of the vehicle, under new Norwegian laws.

Denmark, meanwhile, produced so much electricity from wind power in July last year that it was able to sell its excess to Germany, Norway and Sweden.

In India, Delhi was dubbed the equivalent of "living in a gas chamber" by its chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. Similar criticism has been levelled at major Chinese cities, with Beijing set to double the number of air monitoring stations to assess the city's air quality.

Meanwhile in the UK, Theresa May has closed the Department for Energy and Climate Change and merged it into a new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

One point of concern for the Netherlands will be ensuring the current design of electric cars can be adequately scaled-up for densely populated urban environments, warned Dr Smokers.

"I think that living labs and other large scale experiments in the coming two decades will be needed to find out how we can tackle this challenge," he said.

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