Over 10,000 Dutch farmers marched in The Hague to protest against government plans to restrict nitrogen emissions, which they argue would force the closure of many farms and adversely affect food production.
Demonstrators held their national flag upside down in a symbolic gesture during the peaceful demonstration organized by the Farmers’ Defence Force group.
The protest preceded the regional elections on March 15 and followed similar demonstrations in Belgium, where farmers have also protested against nitrogen emission rules.
Meanwhile, thousands of environmentalists staged an unauthorized protest in the city against tax rules that they claim incentivize the use of fossil fuels, resulting in significant traffic disruptions.
Environmentalists led by the climate activist group Extinction Rebellion hung a banner reading “Stop fossil subsidies” after scaling a wall near the road they had blocked. The demonstration is part of a larger movement to end subsidies for fossil fuels in order to combat climate change.
Police used water cannons to disperse a group of about 100 of the activists in the late afternoon. Protesters demanded an end to fuel tax exemptions for oil refineries and coal plants, as well as exemptions for the aviation and shipping industries agreed at the EU level.
The problem of nitrogen oxide levels in the soil and water in the Netherlands and Belgium exceeding EU regulations is due to high levels of livestock and heavy use of fertilizers. However, farm groups argue that the issue has been exaggerated and that the proposed solutions are unfair and ineffective.
Next week’s regional elections will be crucial in relation to the issue as they will determine the composition of the Dutch Senate, which is responsible for implementing national government goals, such as nitrogen caps.