Growth Fund can provide ‘green’ economic recovery (but not necessarily)

The recovery of the economy must be green, said Minister Eric Wiebes of Economic Affairs and Climate in a letter to the Lower House before the summer. In the meantime, Germany and France have announced investments of tens of billions in hydrogen and other climate-improving projects. And the European Commission, under the leadership of European Commissioner Frans Timmermans, wants to spend no less than 260 billion euros a year on the ‘Green Deal’ for greening the European economy.

In the Netherlands, therefore, the 20 billion growth fund for the next five years, presented this morning by Finance Ministers Wiebes and Hoekstra, was eagerly awaited. In the presentation, Minister Wiebes pointed to the need for change in the economy, referring among other things to energy transition and climate policy.

However, the documents sent to the House of Representatives today do not make greening a firm condition of eligibility for funding from the Growth Fund. “The primary objective of the Growth Fund is to sustainably strengthen the earning capacity, i.e. to structurally increase the gross domestic product,” says the letter. And, a proposal must not conflict with the government’s ambitions, such as climate policy.

Chairman Hans de Boer of employers’ organisation VNO-NCW responded by linking up with climate policy and calling it “an important step for a stronger and more sustainable economy” “With this fund the government can lay the foundations for things like a new hydrogen infrastructure, high-quality public transport and new innovations,” says De Boer.

The chemical industry is already working on proposals for, among other things, the use of sustainable hydrogen through the sector organisation VNCI and calls the fund a “very welcome addition”

Like the opposition parties PvdA and GroenLinks, Greenpeace is critical and lacks harsh climate conditions. “It seems that the cabinet is focusing on economic growth,” says Faiza Oulahsen of Greenpeace.

The growth fund focuses on three areas: knowledge development, physical infrastructure and research, development and innovation. According to Olof van der Gaaf, director of the branch organisation of sustainable energy companies (NVDE), this does offer opportunities. “In all three main categories you can make connections with climate policy and the energy transition, and the great thing about this fund is that the amounts involved are serious”

According to van der Gaag, the Dutch approach is more cautious than that of Germany and France; “The policy in France is a lot more concrete and ambitious when it comes to making the economy climate proof. Here it must not cause any damage to the climate and in France climate improvement is the starting point”

The extent to which the fund provides for greening depends entirely on its implementation. A committee of experts will assess applications and submit them to the government.