Dutch farmers, climate activists get ready for pre-election protests

by mcardinal

Hundreds of Dutch farmers carrying flags and banners began gathering in The Hague on Saturday for a protest against government plans to limit nitrogen emissions, a policy they say will spell the end of many farms.

In a separate protest ahead of the country’s March 15 regional elections, environmentalists were expected to block a major thoroughfare in the city later in the day to protest tax rules they say encourage the use of fossil fuels.

Farmers say the government plans to limit nitrogen pollution would lead to the closure of many livestock farms and reduced fertilizer use. Similar protests were held by farmers in Belgium this month against a regional government plan to limit nitrogen emissions.

Relatively large numbers of livestock and heavy use of fertilizers, as well as traffic and construction, have led to levels of nitrogen oxides in the air and water in both the Netherlands and Belgium that are higher than EU regulations allow.

Farm groups say the problem has been exaggerated and that proposed solutions are unnecessarily heavy-handed.

Next week’s regional elections are significant because they will determine the makeup of the Dutch Senate, and because regional governments are responsible for translating national government goals – such as nitrogen caps – into concrete plans.

Early on Saturday, the mayor of The Hague issued an emergency order granting police extra powers to enforce public order and ensure safety during the planned protests.

Police said in a statement they had begun intercepting farmers attempting to enter the city on tractors and turning them away. The Farmers Defence Force group leading the farmers’ demonstration, which has city approval, has encouraged people to arrive by bus.

Environmentalists led by the climate activist group Extinction Rebellion say they plan to block traffic on a thoroughfare near parliament in an unauthorized demonstration likely to lead to arrests.

Copyright 2023 Thomson/Reuters