Measures to reduce nitrogen pollution in various sectors

Nitrogen emissions in the Netherlands must be reduced significantly in the coming years. That is why the government has adopted measures for the agricultural, industrial, construction, and transport sectors. In this article, you can read more about these agreements and the regulations.

The Netherlands has been emitting too much nitrogen for years. This is harmful to nature and our health. Therefore, the government is . For instance, it previously reduced the maximum speed limit on motorways. In addition, companies that emit a lot of nitrogen face specific measures. Some of these measures were already known. others were shared in a letter to the House of Representatives in February (in Dutch).

Nitrogen in agriculture

The government earlier announced that nitrogen emissions in agriculture must be reduced by an average of 41% before 2030 (in Dutch). To achieve this, livestock numbers in the Netherlands will have to come down by 30%. Because this will have major consequences for many farmers, special financial schemes will be introduced.

Farmers near protected areas will receive a one-off offer to move, make their farms more sustainable or, stop. Those who decide to end their business will receive compensation. The announced measures have caused a lot of strong emotions and debate in the Netherlands. Christianne van der Wal, Minister for Nature and Nitrogen, told parliament that the situation for farmers is ‘terrible’ (in Dutch). But she also warned that there is no other choice left (in Dutch). “We cannot afford any more excuses,” she said.

Subsidies and measures agriculture           

Various measures and subsidies exist to reduce nitrogen emissions in the agricultural sector.

  • Voluntary buy-out scheme: this allows provinces to buy out livestock farms with high nitrogen emissions near Natura 2000 areas. This is known as the Focused Buy-out Measure and termination of livestock farms (in Dutch);
  • Subsidy for livestock farmers who voluntarily stop farming. This is known as the National livestock cessation scheme (in Dutch);
  • Subsidy for pig farmers who voluntarily stop their business. This is known as the Pig production cessation scheme (in Dutch);
  • Subsidy for farms that collect rainwater and dilute their manure with it. This is known as the Subsidy scheme for manure dilution on sandy soil (in Dutch);
  • Subsidy for livestock farmers to improve their barns. This is known as the Subsidy for barn measures (in Dutch);
  • Subsidy for farms to purchase a manure processing installation. This allows them to remove manure faster and process it (or have it processed) into high-quality fertilisers at a central location. This is known as the Subsidy scheme for high-quality manure processing (in Dutch).

Changing cattle feed can also reduce nitrogen emissions. That is why the government is making agreements with parties in the agricultural sector to reduce the crude protein content in cattle feed (in Dutch).

For farmers and market gardeners who want to switch to circular agriculture, the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality has developed the Sustainable Agriculture Switchover Programme. This programme consists of a fund and several schemes (in Dutch).

Dairy cows that spend more hours in the meadow produce less nitrogen emissions. Therefore, all dairy farmers can make use of assistance to increase the number of hours spent grazing (in Dutch).  

Peak loaders

For so-called ‘peak loaders’, there will be a special scheme to stop or improve sustainability. Via a tool and a website (both in Dutch), agricultural businesses can check if they are a peak loader.

Nitrogen in the industrial sector

The industrial sector accounts for 2.1% of the nitrogen emissions in the Netherlands. Therefore, the government has also agreed on nitrogen targets for this sector. In 2030, the industrial sector must emit 38% less nitrogen.

Subsidies and measures for industry

As in the agricultural sector, there will be a peak-emission approach (in Dutch) for the largest industrial emitters. There are also various measures and subsidies for the industrial sector.

Because pellet stoves and biomass boilers emit a lot of nitrogen, the sustainable energy investment subsidy (ISDE) can no longer be used for their purchase.

More information about these specific measures for industry are available on the Aanpak Stikstof website (in Dutch).

Nitrogen in construction

The construction sector is responsible for 0.6% of total nitrogen emissions in the Netherlands. The government wants to prevent construction projects from coming to a halt because their nitrogen emissions are too high. If you want to be able to build, you must make a separate calculation of the nitrogen emissions released during construction, for each construction project.

Subsidies and measures for construction

To reduce nitrogen emissions, there is a subsidy for construction companies that make their construction equipment more sustainable.

In addition, government departments will encourage emission-free construction projects (in Dutch) by more often choosing construction companies that use clean and emission-free construction equipment. The transition to clean and emission-free construction will also be stimulated through the Knowledge and Innovation Programme for Clean and Emission-free Construction (in Dutch). The programme focusses, among other things, on the use of lighter and sustainable building materials, and the use of emission-free tools on the construction site.

More information about these specific measures for construction can be found at (in Dutch).

Nitrogen in transport

Traffic accounts for 11% of all nitrogen emissions in the Netherlands. Nitrogen emissions from road traffic, shipping, and aviation must therefore be reduced by (in Dutch).

Subsidies and measures for transport

There are several measures and subsidies to help reduce nitrogen emissions in the transport sector.

In addition, modern trucks can reduce nitrogen emissions in their exhaust by using an AdBlue system with SCR catalyst. To encourage this, there will be better monitoring (in Dutch) of such systems.

At (in Dutch) you will find more explanation about these specific measures for mobility.

BIJ12 helpdesk

You can contact the BIJ12 (in Dutch) helpdesk of the joint provinces with questions about nitrogen, permit policy, (status of) permits, and so on.