Netherlands Sustainability Issues

The critical environmental and sustainability issues of Netherlands:

  1. Excess Consumption

The Netherlands shows a somewhat weaker performance on indicators relating to the environment, climate, energy and inequality. For example, it has ranked at the bottom in the renewable energy category for years (26th place out of the 28). In addition, greenhouse gas emissions per inhabitant are undoubtedly high in comparison to other EU countries. Other areas of concern are found in the Netherlands’ land use. For instance, the small area of woodland may be a given, but in terms of the share of organic farming, the Netherlands shows a relatively poor performance.


  1. Fossil Fuels

The Netherlands is Europe’s second largest producer and exporter of natural gas, after Norway. It is also a major transport hub for fossil fuels because of its geographical location and large ports. Rotterdam and Amsterdam are Europe’s biggest and second biggest coal ports respectively, placing the Netherlands among the main importers and exporters of coal in the world. Despite a reduction in the domestic production of fossil fuels, they continue to dominate the Dutch energy system, with 81% of electricity production fossil fuel-based and with renewables accounting for just over 12% (Central Bureau of Statistics- CBS). The Netherlands has set domestic objectives to increase the share of renewables in total energy consumption to 14% by 2020 and to 16% by 2023. In 2016, renewables accounted for a mere 5.9% of total energy consumption. In the European Union (EU), only Luxembourg and Malta have smaller shares of renewable energy in total energy consumption. Fossil fuels still make up more than 90% of the country’s total primary energy supply, the fifth-highest level among the OECD’s 34 members. The share of clean energy has increased but renewables still only accounted for 4.2% of energy supply in 2013, mainly solid biomass and renewable municipal waste. That leaves the Netherlands likely to fall short of renewable energy and energy efficiency goals set out in the government’s 2013 Energy Agreement for Sustainable Growth.


  1. Inequalities

Netherlands’ per capita income of USD 51,340, is the ninth highest among OECD countries. This prosperity is not equally shared however: the top 20% of the population earn four times as much as the bottom 20% (Gini coefficient is 0.28, slightly below, and therefore better than, the EU average of 0.30); over 1.4 million people (8.8% of the population) live below the poverty line; and 125,000 children (7% of all children) are growing up in long-term poverty. There is low unemployment overall – 3.3% (down from 7.9% in 2014) but rates are higher or lower for different groups of workers/employees. People with a migrant background are more likely to be unemployed, and it is worse if they are from a nonwestern background. However, in 2017, having a job is no longer a guarantee that a household is not at risk of poverty – the number of working poor has risen by 60% since 2000, from 210,00 to 320,000, but this is still low compared to other European countries.


  1. Gender Pay Gap

The hourly wage rate is 5% higher for men in the public sector and 7% higher in the private sector. Netherlands has by far the highest rates of part-time work in the European Union for both women and men: more than three-quarters of the 61% of women who have paid employment, work part-time; more than a quarter of men work part-time. The proportion of women in the national parliament and local government in  the Netherlands is high (38%, 57 seats) and stable. The proportion of women in top positions and on supervisory boards has not yet reached the 30% target set by the government.