Environmental damage in cash amounts to € 31 billion per year

Environmental damage in cash amounts to € 31 billion per year

The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) calculated the environmental damage in money that the Netherlands incurs as a result of the emission of harmful substances to soil, water and air. That amounts to 31 billion euros annually. This loss of welfare for Dutch society equals 4.5% of the gross domestic product (GDP).

The calculated environmental damage is 98 percent from the emission of greenhouse gases and air pollutants into the air. Despite fifty years of environmental policy, the Netherlands still has a stubborn environmental problem.

This is the conclusion drawn by researchers from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) in the policy letter Monetary Environmental Damage in the Netherlands – An exploration. In this study, the PBL combined figures on the annual physical emissions of harmful substances with information about the currently used environmental prices. This can be used to calculate the value of the total monetary environmental damage in the Netherlands.

Environmental damage amounts to 4.5% of GDP
In this study it was calculated that the total monetary environmental damage due to the emission of harmful substances in the Netherlands in 2015 amounted to more than 31 billion euros (see Figure). This damage can be compared to a commonly used welfare indicator, such as welfare based on the gross domestic product (GDP). In 2015, GDP amounted to 683 billion euros and the growth of this amounted to 20 billion euros. Social welfare is therefore about 4.5% lower than GDP if monetary environmental damage is taken into account. If the environmental damage caused by Dutch consumers and companies abroad, for example due to international travel or international freight traffic, the damage even rises to 37 billion euros.

Most environmental damage due to emissions to the air
Despite the environmental policy of the past fifty years, various environmental problems still affect society. Think in particular of global warming as a result of the emission of greenhouse gases and air pollution. Environmental damage caused by harmful emissions causes an immediate loss of prosperity for the current generation, for example due to the effects of global warming, human health damage, and loss of biodiversity. It is striking that almost all calculated damage comes from the emission of substances to the air. This mainly concerns greenhouse gases such as CO2 and methane, and air-polluting substances such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxide and ammonia (also known as NEC substances). Together, greenhouse gases and NEC substances account for more than 98 percent of the calculated environmental damage.

Various sectors contribute to the environmental damage
The calculations show that most environmental damage is caused by traffic and transport: more than 12 billion euros in damage. But the agriculture sector (6.5 billion euros), industry and refining (4.5 billion euros) and the energy sector (over 4 billion euros) also cause considerable environmental damage. Consumers account for just under 2 billion euros, while waste disposal and the services sector contribute only to limited environmental damage.

A transition to other energy sources for the industry and the reuse of materials and raw materials in the production of goods can help reduce the environmental pressure. More effective green taxes on the largest sources of environmental damage and the most polluting production phases could be a suitable means for this, as PBL concluded last year in the report Fiscal greening: tax shift from labor to raw materials, materials and waste.

Read the article here (in Dutch)