News: Minister grants Schiphol nature permit

The Minister for Nature and Nitrogen Policy has granted Schiphol a nature permit. This is an important moment, as it means that we are complying with the applicable laws and regulations. We would like to explain why this is important and how this permit helps us on our way to a quieter, cleaner and better Schiphol.

Published on: 26 September 2023

A nature permit – why was this necessary?

The Nature Conservation Act has been in effect in the Netherlands since 2017. This act regulates the protection of natural areas, animal and plant species, and forests. To comply with this legislation we, as an airport, applied for a nature permit on 1 October 2020.

In order to protect nature, limits are set on nitrogen emissions and precipitation in and around natural areas, which we also call Natura2000 areas. In recent years, there has been much discussion in the Netherlands about the regulations surrounding nitrogen and their consequences. Schiphol also had to deal with this issue when it was revealed, in December 2021, that in order to qualify for a nature permit, we had to reduce nitrogen emissions.

How did Schiphol do that?

First, we looked at our own operations. We have been working for some time to reduce our nitrogen emissions. This includes trying to reduce nitrogen emissions by electrifying ground equipment, using electric ground power units and shore power for aircraft. In addition, since 2022, airlines have been paying higher airport charges if they come to Schiphol with an aircraft that emits a lot of nitrogen.

Another way to comply with the rules around nitrogen is by 'external netting'. In our case, this means that twelve livestock farmers voluntarily sold their nitrogen rights to us.

There are 500,000 flights in the permit. Will there no longer be a contraction?

The nature permit states a maximum of 500,000 flights. The reason is that when we submitted our permit application, we still assumed a maximum number of 500,000 flights. Meanwhile, the government has announced its intention to limit the number of flights.

In the granting of this permit, the minister has taken the plans to reduce the number of flights at Schiphol into account. The government continues to take steps towards fewer flights at Schiphol through the Balanced Approach procedure and the experimental scheme. We support the basic principle of reducing nuisance for local residents, but we advocate a truly innovative approach. A new system with clear noise and environmental limits in which aviation becomes demonstrably cleaner and quieter.

Can the minister even make this decision with the elections ahead?

The minister thinks so. She says that, as the competent authority, she is bound by the applicable procedures regardless of the approaching elections to the House of Representatives. These procedures, she says, have been followed correctly and comprehensively.

In her letter to the House of Representatives, the minister writes that this concerns the implementation of existing policy, which is independent of political considerations or political decision-making. Moreover, she believes it is important that we, as an airport, comply with the relevant laws and regulations and that we receive clarity about the application we submitted.

And now?

As previously mentioned, this is an important moment for us. We want to continue to connect the Netherlands to the world in the future, but we realise that this must be done in a quieter, cleaner and better way. The nature permit now shows that we are complying with the applicable laws and regulations, and that provides certainty for our environment and for the aviation sector. Now that we have a nature permit, the way is clear to continue working on a new Airport Traffic Decree containing hard environmental and noise limits for aviation.

Curious about what else we want to do for a quieter, cleaner and better Schiphol? Read all about it in our 8-point plan.