See you in court! (2)
(most of the information linked to in this contribution is in Dutch)
The same EU-regulations on air quality that enable citizens to sue their local authorities (see: "See you in court!") now impede the Dutch national government in its attempts to address Dutch traffic congestion problems.
What is going on? The Raad van State, a Dutch government advisory body with certain legal competences, was asked whether the interpretation of European air quality standards used by the Dutch government, or junior minister Van Geel in this case, was in accordance with the aforementioned regulations. The answer was: no. Van Geel had hoped he could either get permission to meet EU targets later or interpret the standards more loosely. That would give the government enough leeway to build and extend highways with which to combat traffic congestion problems.
Greens protested immediately, saying: don´t bend the rules, just clean up your act: subsidize the fitting of soot filters to diesel cars and reduce maximum speed around cities to 80 kph.
The soot filters are also advocated by the ANWB, the motorists´ association.
The Dutch newspaper Trouw criticized Van Geel for not anticipating this decision. It affects existing government policy considerably. In particular, several pieces of highway that were to help fight congestion problems cannot be built because the areas around the projected road sites would suffer too much from air pollution, even though many of them are, for Dutch proportions, sparsely populated.
Again, environmental issues associated with mobility attract considerable attention.
Incidentally, the Dutch situation looks particularly severe, in terms of population density, pollutant levels, associated life expectancy reduction and severity of congestion problems.
In my next contribution I will try to say something about two classes of proposed solutions.