Farmers' protest in Brussels. Photo: © Alexandros Michailidis /

Flemish nitrogen breakdown

Nitrogen policy in the Flanders, in Belgium, has now become as explosive as it has been in the Netherlands in recent years.  Acid News has previously reported on the Flemish government’s proposal to reduce the region’s high nitrogen emissions (AN2/22). Although almost a year has passed, the plan has not been adopted. Parts of the coalition government have opposed the original proposal, which, among other things, would mean that farms that have the greatest impact on sensitive natural areas would need to close.

Unsurprisingly, this has not gone down well with the broad furrow of Flemish farmers.

In typical Dutch fashion they filled the streets of Brussels with processions of tractors. But their problems are greater than just having to adapt to a new nitrogen regulation. If the regional government fails to reach an agreement, the EU Commission may freeze the subsidies provided by the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy – funds that most farmers are dependent on.

That brings us back to the original purpose of the bill, which is to deal with the excessively high deposition of nitrogen in the region’s sensitive natural areas. In 2019, the critical limit values for nitrogen were exceeded for 63 percent of the area of the nitrogen-sensitive habitat groups, and 56 percent of the total Natura 2000 area. The latter are areas that the government is obliged to protect under the EU Habitats Directive.

Another twist is that the high nitrogen emissions are putting the environmental licence of Brussels airport at risk. Brussels airport must apply for a new environmental permit this summer. But without a new nitrogen regulation in place, they don't know how much nitrogen they will be allowed to emit.

Sources: The Brussels Times 1 February 2023
The Brussels Times 2 March 2023
Flanders Environment Ministry



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