To meet the standard set in the Nitrogen Reduction and Nature Improvement Act (WSN) by 2035, nitrogen emissions must be reduced by far more than initially thought. This has been shown by new calculations performed by RIVM. It means that the decrease in nitrogen emissions on which the National Programme for Rural Areas (NPLG) is based will also be inadequate. Although the reduction target has resulted in a steep decline in nitrogen deposition in vulnerable nature conservation areas, it is expected that only 40 per cent of nature reserves will be below the critical deposition value by 2035. The statutory target is for 74 per cent to be below the CDV. 

Since 2021, based on European research, the Dutch standard for nitrogen deposition – the critical deposition value (CDV) – has become more stringent. Scientific understanding of nitrogen emissions and deposition has also changed. New insights are incorporated into the nitrogen calculations every year, along with new data.

The NPLG targets are inadequate, although overloading of the natural environment is decreasing

RIVM has previously calculated that with current policies and the more stringent CDV standard, the WSN target will not be achieved. New calculations now show that this will be the case even if the emission reductions under the NPLG are achieved. In that scenario, instead of 74 per cent, only 40 per cent of vulnerable nature conservation areas will be below the CDV by 2035. RIVM performed these calculations at the request of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.

Despite the fact that the statutory targets will not be reached, nitrogen deposition in nitrogen-sensitive nature conservation areas is decreasing. If the reduction in nitrogen emissions specified in the NPLG is achieved, the amount of excess nitrogen deposited in nature will fall by 67 per cent by 2035.

Targeted measures to further reduce emissions are more efficient

In 2021, the average amount of nitrogen deposited was approximately 1440 mol per hectare, per year. If the NPLG nitrogen emission targets are achieved, this average will fall to around 1040 mol per hectare, per year.

To achieve the statutory target of 74 per cent, a significant additional reduction in emissions is required. RIVM has calculated that the amount of nitrogen deposited must fall to an average of around 850 mol per hectare, per year. 

The calculations in this study show that targeted regional measures to further reduce emissions are more efficient than generic measures.