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Election campaign heats up as coalition leaders clash over climate change deal

THE NETHERLANDS. Coalition parties VVD and D66 have clashed over the government’s plans to cut carbon emissions, with both sides warning that they are prepared to bring down the coalition over the issue.

The VVD’s parliamentary group leader Klaas Dijkhoff cast doubt over the viability of the draft agreement, reached in December, which aims to cut CO2 emissions by 49% by 2030. ‘The chances of me carrying out this agreement in the literal sense is zero,’ he said.

Rob Jetten, his counterpart from the progressive liberal D66 party, said an ‘ambitious climate agreement’ was at the core of his party’s participation in government. ‘Without an ambitious climate policy [there will be] no cabinet’, he said.

The remarks were made as campaigning gets under way for the elections to the provincial assemblies in March, when the environment is expected to be one of the defining issues.

The draft agreement, drawn up by seven political parties including all four coalition partners, contains 600 measures ranging from switching off the gas main and phasing out petrol and diesel cars to higher fuel taxes for householders and industry.

The VVD and Christian Democrats have been reluctant to implement far-reaching reforms to switch the Netherlands to green energy, which they say weigh too heavily on the bill payer. By distancing themselves from the deal, the right-wing VVD hope to win over voters who are sceptical of the plan or worried about rising energy prices.

‘If things had gone our way it could have given us an excellent plan where the burden on householders was bearable and well distributed. But that’s not what we have,’ said Dijkhoff. ‘If it’s a question of ditching the cabinet or ditching the voters, I will never ditch the voters,’ he added.

His criticism echoes comments made by Christian Democrat leader Sybrand Buma during the summer, when he warned of a rift between ‘prosecco drinking Tesla drivers’ who could afford to shoulder the cost of the energy transition and those who could not. ‘It is significant that the VVD now sees that the climate agreement is not sacred,’ Buma said in response to Dijkhoff’s remarks.

ChristenUnie (CU) leader Gert-Jan Segers, whose party supports the climate deal, called on Twitter for Dijkhoff to stick to the deal. ‘I’ll allow him his one liner… [but] you can’t just break agreements once you’ve made them.’

Prime minister Mark Rutte said he remained confident that the cabinet would survive the row. ‘I see four parties who think differently about things, but we agree about our goals,’ he told NOS’s weekend current affairs show Buitenhof.

This article appeared first on dutchnews.nl

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