Implementing Sustainable Development: Strategies and Initiatives in High Consumption Societies

By William M. Lafferty; James Meadowcroft | Go to book overview
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6 The Netherlands: Ambitious on Goals—Ambivalent on Action

Marie-Louise Van Muijen


Introduction

The Netherlands often regards itself as setting an example in the world of international environmental politics. With respect to sustainable development, extensive policies had already been put in place before UNCED. The intensity of governmental attention to environmental protection had been growing since the 1970s. Already by the 1980s the Dutch government began to recognize that environmental issues could not be considered as isolated phenomena, and that integrative planning policies would be needed to deal with these problems successfully.

A recognition of the seriousness of global environmental problems encouraged Dutch efforts at the national and international levels. The global character of environmental problems made it clear that effective policies abroad were essential if domestic environmental targets were to be obtained. This confirmed Dutch commitment to international negotiations and made the success of Dutch environmental policy explicitly dependent upon foreign policy measures and uncertain outcomes in the international arena.

While the Dutch obviously have a reputation to maintain, the question is whether the country really provides an example to be followed when it comes to sustainable development. In this chapter it will become clear that numerous White Papers have been written since UNCED, policies have been carried out with more or less rigour, and have provoked more or less discussion. However, although Dutch environmental policy is considered relatively successful, this does not mean that the Netherlands is necessarily developing in the direction of sustainable consumption and production. Indeed, while the Ministry of the Environment has been able to mobilize broad societal support for sustainable development and public co-operation

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