Climate Law Yes, Shell Agreement No

1 February 2019

Climate Law Yes, Shell Agreement No

Last December it was announced on social media that the SP had voted to support the climate agreement, despite SP leader Lilian Marijnissen having just spoken against it. 'Hypocrite' was a relatively mild imputation in response. But was the accusation true?

SP Member of Parliament Sandra Beckerman has worked for climate justice for many years and is the person to go to if you want to cast light on the subject. Climate accord, climate law, climate deniers. What's actually the state of play at the present time? SP monthly De Tribune interviewed Sandra Beckerman to get to the bottom of the issue.

Did the SP vote for the climate agreement?

No, of course not. We couldn't possibly have voted in favour of it. The climate agreement is the result of negotiations between the government, employers, trade unions and environmentalist organisations.

But the unions and environmentalists were strongly against it, weren't they?

Precisely. They shared the SP's criticisms of this so-called agreement: the people must pay, the biggest polluters, such as Shell, were spared. When the environmental organisations and the trade unions saw that the government and the employers wanted simply to push this through, they pulled out. They didn't want to sign it. The negotiations were led by Ed Nijpels of  the VVD (the centre-right party which forms the majority in the governing coalition – translator's note) and dominated by major polluters. 

What were the results of this?

The unions and the environmental movement have calculated that the agreement will cost Dutch households €1.5 billion per year, while the biggest polluters will on the other hand be in receipt of subsidies worth €450 million.

So is the SP against climate change regulation in general?

No, absolutely not. We want to pass on a clean earth to our children. But we won't have ordinary households paying more for their energy. We want the bill sent where it belongs, to major polluters such as Shell, and to their shareholders. 

But the SP did indeed vote for something, a measure for which the party was even the joint proposer.

Yes, that was the climate law, which stated what the aim of climate policy should be. The climate agreement is a - poor – elaboration of that law. We voted for the law, and are completely against the agreement.

What can we expect from a climate law and the targets it lays down when the biggest polluters are protected by the climate agreement?

The honest answer is 'nothing'. It all comes down to justice. If Prime Minister Mark Rutte is making deals with big capital, and passing the bill to households, the first thing that will happen is that ordinary Dutch people will be disaffected from any and every climate regulation. Every target and every climate law will become unattainable.  Our support is not unconditional.

Some people are saying that the SP is now in the same camp as the climate deniers, such as the far right parties the PvV and the FvD. 

That's laughable. It would mean that the same was true for the environmental organisations. If climate deniers are in a camp, then it's the same camp as the big polluters, as Shell. The deniers' message is that the climate agreement is unjust because climate policy is always unjust. That's precisely what the big polluters want people to think. All we have in common is that the PvV and the FvD is that we don't want this climate agreement. But in contrast to the climate deniers we have an alternative, a better idea. 

Which is?

I like to give Canada as an example. In 2015 the country was still being hailed as 'fossil of the year', standing as it did in the top ten producers of coal, gas and oil. But now Canada has introduced a CO2 tax for major polluters and as a result the country's emissions have been drastically reduced.

But won't people still have to pay, via higher prices?

That's where the trick comes in. 90% of the take from this tax would be returned to the households. Even if prices rise, households will gain. Because of this people on low or average incomes will profit from the climate policy. In the SP's view, that's imperative. We're having such a plan evaluated in terms of the situation in the Netherlands. See: “Make the polluter pay”.

So this is a climate policy which also carries short-term benefits for people.

And in the long term. Research has shown that people have shorter lives and more illness as a result of environmental pollution. That costs the Netherlands tens of billions a year. Doing nothing isn't cheaper. Climate justice can bring about a fairer society. We can take back control of our energy supply. In that way we wouldn't be dependent on the big polluters, who have been responsible, for example, for damage to health and for earthquakes in Groningen. People can consider for themselves what is affordable and safe energy. The SP wants a green revolution and a social revolution. 

A slightly longer version of this article first appeared, in the original Dutch, in the SP monthly De Tribune in January, 2019. The text is by Diederik Olders.

You are here