Windmills and solar parks, building new homes on a large scale and space for nature and water to adapt to climate change: these require major interventions in our living environment.
That is why it is important that the cabinet makes stricter choices than is currently the case, says the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency in the Spatial Outlook 2023. “Provinces have been asked to make the spatial puzzle. But that is very difficult if the government does not indicate a direction” , says researcher David Hamers.
Keeping the long term in mind
To help make those choices, the PBL has developed four future scenarios for the Netherlands in 2050. Hamers: “Many spatial decisions last fifty to a hundred years. We have to look beyond the short term of one cabinet term of four years at a time.”
There are currently many issues for which a clear picture of the future could be a good guideline, says the PBL. Where will most people in the Netherlands soon live? Do you mainly build in the city or also outside? How do you organize your energy infrastructure? Is the Lely line really necessary?
“Spatial investments must also pay off in the changed Netherlands in the coming decades,” says researcher Rienk Kuiper. “The right place is important for this. When planning, keep the cohesion in mind, make choices that can survive in the long term.”
Four different directions
In each of the four future scenarios, Dutch society develops in a different direction. The Global Entrepreneurial scenario is one in which market thinking dominates, in the Regional Rooted scenario citizens arrange a lot in their own living environment, in Fast World distances are less important due to further increased digitization and in Green Land there is a lot of space for nature and individual freedom is sometimes restricted in order to achieve green goals.
A very concrete example is the choice to build homes in areas around the rivers. In one of the scenarios (Green Land) a very large area around the major rivers is reserved for high water. According to the PBL, you should already be thinking about a building freeze until it is clear where the extra space for the river is really needed.
Now think about what kind of country you want to be in 2050. This is the only way to make successful choices for the important transitions facing Dutch society.
In another scenario, in which people try to guide nature with technical solutions, the space for the river is much smaller. Another question: which train connections do you build? In the Global Enterprising scenario, a high-speed line from Amsterdam, via Groningen, to Hamburg and Copenhagen, for example, is more logical than the Lely line, which stops at many places.
The PBL has developed the scenarios to provide policymakers with tools for the spatial puzzles of the future. The researchers advocate that the cabinet, but also regional and municipal administrators look beyond their term of office. Hamers: “Now think about what kind of country you want to be in 2050. Only then can you make successful choices for the important transitions facing Dutch society.”