Climate groups in the Netherlands see potential to work with BBB; Farmers want flags right side up again

THE HAGUE - Several nature preservation groups and environmental activists said they are optimistic they can find a way to work with BoerBurgerBeweging (BBB) after the party’s apparent big election win on Wednesday. The new right-wing party, supported by farming and agriculture sectors, is on track to take about 15 of the 75 seats in the Dutch Senate, and could become the largest political party in most, if not all, of the 12 provincial governments. 


As a result of the victory, groups representing farmers said the national government can no longer ignore their concerns, and that the flag of the Netherlands should again be flown right-side up. 


“The restoration of nature is just as necessary today and tomorrow as it was yesterday,” said Natuurmonumenten on Thursday. The nature conservation foundation was commenting on the big election win by new right-wing farming and agriculture political party BoerBurgerBeweging (BBB) 


“It is very important to involve everyone in finding a solution,” Natuurmonumenten said. “Nature and the agricultural sector go well together,” the organization continued. “It is very important that nature and farmers quickly get clarity about the future, so that nature recovery can start today.”


Environmental activist organization Milieudefensie said that farmers must be treated fairly in the political crisis regarding the handling of nitrogen emissions. “The nitrogen crisis should not so much rest on the farmers’ plate, but rather on that of the large polluting agribusinesses such as Rabobank, Ahold Delhaize and FrieslandCampina,” said Bram van Liere from Milieudefensie. 


“For decades, they have driven the intensification of the agricultural sector and with it the nitrogen crisis.” Politicians must take a harder line against major polluters, he said. “Because only if they participate can we achieve the goals for climate, nitrogen and nature.” 


However, the Netherlands will get bogged down in the nitrogen crisis if the BBB’s election victory leads to the cancellation or softening of the Cabinet’s nitrogen policy, said Johan Vollenbroek, the chair of Mobilization for the Environment. The environmental organization has won numerous lawsuits against provinces, which refused to act against farmers who did not obtain the correct permits for their impact on nature ant the environment. “Halving the herd is the only way out,” said Vollenbroek. 


If the Netherlands gets bogged down by the nitrogen crisis, it will have major economic consequences, Vollenbroek predicted. Moreover, climate projects will also come to a standstill, as a result of which the government will not achieve the 2030 target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent compared to 1990. This will make the BBB’s plans very difficult, said Vollenbroek. “We are curious when the BBB will show its colors.” 


He also said he saw bright spots. For example, the Forum voor Democratie (FVD) will shrink in many provincial governments. “FvD is adamantly against climate and nature measures.” He also thinks that the plans for Lelystad Airport will now definitely be shelved, because the BoerBurgerBeweging is against the expansion and use of the airport for commercial passenger flights. 


Mobilization for the Environment was the organization that successfully litigated against the last Cabinet’s Nitrogen Approach Program (PAS). The Council of State determined in 2019 that it was contrary to European nature conservation laws. 


Farmers Defense Force: flags can hang right-side up again 


“The citizens have shown that they support the farmers and not the coalition. In the coming days, a lot of Dutch flags will be hung the other way around to thank the citizens,” said Sieta van Keimpema of Farmers Defense Force ( FDF ) about the BBB’s victory. In recent months, farmers have protested against the Cabinet policy with inverted flags. According to FDF, they can now be hung again with the red stripe at the top. 


“The shelf life of this Cabinet is over; It would be wise if new elections were held now,” she continued. It will only get worse if the Cabinet now “keeps muddling through,” she said. “They have to say, ‘We have understood the message, another team has to handle it now.’” She is pleased that the Cabinet can no longer simply push through the plans if the provinces say ‘no.’ 


FDF held a large demonstration in the Zuiderpark in The Hague last week. This protest action was not only to put forward the farmers’ views about nitrogen policy and the forced buy-out of farmers, but also to draw attention to all kinds of other social problems. In recent years, FDF and other farmers’ organizations have organized a series of protests against the government’s plans to reduce livestock numbers, among other issues. The first major action was in October 2019. 


The FDF spun the election as the people voting to back the farmers, calling it a “recognition and reward for all fighters, who have stood on their tractors for 3.5 years to fight for their future, family and business.” With this they have made the Netherlands “aware of the injustice” that is being done to the farmers. “Our gratitude to all those Dutch citizens, even in the Randstad, is great,” the farmers’ organization concluded. 


Agractie: The Netherlands moving towards reasonableness after ‘disastrous plans’ 


Another farmers’ protest group, Agractie, said the Netherlands “has made a reasonable move,” and metaphorically stated that two of the four chair legs supporting the Cabinet have been knocked out from under them. 

“If the coalition parties have licked their wounds and still want to continue with their disastrous plans for the Dutch countryside, we will not rest until the remaining chair legs have also been sawn off,” the organization continued. 


Recently, Agractie denounced the persistent lack of clarity from the Cabinet in the field of new nitrogen emissions measures and plans to buy out farmers. The organization is therefore very pleased with the victory orchestrated by BBB leader Caroline van der Plas. “We congratulate BBB on this enormous achievement.” 

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