Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment

Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment Annual report 2017

Our work in the Netherlands in 2017 centred on orienting the new approach to environmental assessment on the Environment and Planning Act. Together with municipalities and provinces we developed a more dynamic approach in which - in an interactive, digital process - information on the existing and desired quality of the living environment supports choices in both the long and short term. Topics that stood out in 2017 were health, participation and the spatial implications of the energy transition. They will continue to receive much attention in 2018 - for example, in the upcoming procedures for wind parks on land.

For the international department, 2017 was a year to celebrate. It began with a positive independent evaluation of the results achieved in the preceding five years. This contributed to entering into a new cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the next five years. Our crowning achievement was that the entire Commission - international and Dutch - was awarded the Institutional Award by the International Association for Impact Assessment (an international association of professionals involved in impact assessment) for our contribution to the development of environmental assessment. We are therefore embarking on the next five years with much pleasure and energy.

Advisory reports The Netherlands

More mandatory and fewer non-mandatory advisory reports in 2017

201784 mandatory84 non-mandatory
201670 mandatory89 non-mandatory
201571 mandatory70 non-mandatory
  • Rural areas
  • Water
  • Industry & energy
  • Intensive livestock farming
  • Infrastructure
  • Housing projects, urban construction projects and industrial estates

Read more about our advisory reports

Advisory reports in the Netherlands

In 2017 we issued 168 advisory reports. Half of these were mandatory advisory reviews of environmental assessment reports. The remainder were non-mandatory advisory reviews: for example, at the start of a project on the desired content of the environmental assessment report, and in the interim when important choices must be made. By comparison, in 2016 we issued a total of 159 advisory reports.

More mandatory advisory reports, fewer non-mandatory ones

The total number of mandatory reviews, 84, was higher than in 2015 and 2016. The total number of non-mandatory advisory reports was also 84, but this was five less than in 2016.

Wind turbine parks, house construction, industrial areas and land-use plans for unzoned land

The initiatives for which environmental assessment reports are written can vary hugely from year to year, and 2017 was no exception. The number of reports for new residential areas and industrial areas that we reviewed rose from seven in 2016 to 26 in 2017. The number of environmental assessment reports for energy projects such as wind turbine parks also increased.

Participation increases support for the decision

We took account of submissions by the public in almost 50% of the advisory reports. This compares with 54% in 2016 and as much as 75% in 2015. We hope these percentages will rise again in response to the emphasis we place on the importance of submissions in our dealings with public authorities. Being able to take on board specific information from submissions by the public enhances the quality of our recommendations.

Only 30% of the environmental assessment reports were complete

In 70% of the environmental assessment reports we reviewed we found major shortcomings. This percentage is higher than in previous years: 63% in 2016 and 66% in 2015. In half of the cases the competent authorities resubmitted the amended reports to us for review. Of these, 80% were complete. The missing information primarily concerned the impacts on Natura2000 areas and possible environmentally-friendly alternatives.


wind turbine parks
house construction and industrial areas
land-use plans for unzoned land

Experimenting with an integral approach in environmental strategies and environmental plans

Marja van der Tas Marja van der Tas, vice-chair

'Exploring the possibilities of environmental assessment reporting and the Environment and Planning Act in pilot schemes is exciting. It's not always simpler, but a broader scope earlier in the process yields more insight and I see it as a bonus.'

Environmental strategies and environmental plans

In 2017 we again experimented together with municipalities and provinces to find out how environmental assessment can offer the best possible support when making choices in environmental strategies and environmental plans. The aim of such a strategy or plan is to integrate a municipality's spatial policies into a single plan. This requires the strategic environmental assessment report to have a different approach and different content: an emphasis on early participation, an integral approach to topics such as health, spatial quality and climate adaptation, the describing of regional values and the monitoring of impacts. In 2018, pilot projects are ongoing in Noord-Brabant province and the municipalities of Katwijk, Goirle, Haarlemmermeer and Rijssen-Holten. We will share the resulting knowledge and experience via meetings, publications and our website.

2018, the year of the climate stress test

Pieter Jongejans Pieter Jongejans, technical secretary

'An area's vulnerability to climate change, the possible countermeasures, their impacts and the uncertainties are all topics for the environmental assessment report.'

Climate stress test

Deltaplan Ruimtelijke Adaptatie [Delta Plan spatial adaptation] is a joint plan prepared by all public authorities in the Delta Plan area for quickly and intensively tackling flooding and its impacts, and heat stress and drought. For example, all public authorities do a climate stress test. Climate adaptation can therefore no longer be left out of a strategic environmental assessment report for a land-use plan, environmental plan, or environmental strategy. We cover this in our fact sheet on climate adaptation and environmental assessment. We look forward to sharing our acquired knowledge and experience with you in 2018 in knowledge sessions.

30% of the environmental assessment reports was complete.

70% was not.

Scope for transition to sustainable energy

Geert Draaijers Geert Draaijers, technical secretary

'Energy transition definitely belongs in environmental assessment reports for environmental plans and permits.'

Transition to sustainable energy

The energy transition is a complex task that must be incorporated in environmental strategies, environmental plans and permits. Environmental assessment offers substantive support and foundation. In 2017, we organised well-attended knowledge sessions about onshore Wind Farms and the role of environmental impact assessment. Most questions were about 'How to find the best locations for wind turbines and how to deal with the effects on landscape, nature and nuisance for local residents? How do you organise participation?' We have listed this in the fact sheet "Wind Farms on Land and Environmental Impact Assessment." In 2018, energy will remain an important theme for us in our advisory work and we will gladly share our knowledge and experience with you through workshops and fact sheets.

Environmental effects expansion airports hot item in 2017

Kees Linse Kees Linse, chair

'Aviation projects are at the heart of public discussion. That emphasises the need for a correct definition of impacts and the advantage of independent review.'


In 2017, several EIA procedures for airports destined for different purposes or more intensive use were running. The environmental impact assessment report for such an adaptation answers questions such as 'Where does the noise nuisance increase?' and 'What is the impact on air quality?'.

At Groningen Airport Eelde we advised not only to assess the joint effects of all flight movements at the airport, but also those of individual activities, such as training flights, commercial flights and the testing of drones. With that information, choices for activities can be well substantiated. In 2017, the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment and the Schiphol Group took up our earlier advice to better map the effects of take-off and landing. The ministry chose to use the European calculation instruction for the calculation of aircraft noise contours. The EIA report containing new calculations of aircraft noise nuisance is expected to be presented to us for review before the summer.

There has been a lot of discussion about the environmental impacts of the Lelystad Airport expansion. In order to be able to expand from 2019 onwards, aircraft will temporarily fly lower than previously anticipated. In addition, part of the input data in the 2014 EIA report was found to be incorrect. The Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment therefore decided to revise the EIA report and to describe the environmental impacts using the right input data and lower flight paths.

Submissions by the public were considered in only 50% of the advisory reports. this represents a decline. Yet participation increases support for decisions.

Much attention paid to health

Tom Smit Tom Smit, vice-chair

'A living environment of good quality is essential for our health. Fortunately, public awareness of this is increasing.'


In 2017 we again paid much attention to health in environmental assessment. More prominence is being given not only to the prevention of negative health impacts, but also to dealing with the possibilities for promoting health in environmental assessment. The latter include stimulating healthy mobility (walking, cycling) and the provision of green spaces. We actively participate in health networks in the Netherlands (such as Create Space for Health) and beyond (such as the international WHO network Health in Environmental Assessment). In 2017 we organised various (in-house) workshops and a course on health in environmental assessment for the Environmental Assessment Service in Flanders (Belgium). We will certainly continue these activities in 2018.

A better living environment starts with participation and environmental assessment

Gijs Hoevenaars Gijs Hoevenaars, jurist and technical secretary

'In a good environmental assessment report you read about what is going on in the area.'


Participation is about giving interested parties timely, comprehensive information, and collecting reactions and explaining how they will be taken into account in the decision-making. Back in 2016 we and the consultancy firm Korbee & Hovelynck jointly concluded that the participation process is often separate from the process of environmental assessment. This regrettable state of affairs means that the environmental assessment report often gives inadequate answers to questions posed by interested parties, and the report's outcomes hardly ever come up for discussion during the participation process.

We therefore prepared an infographic illustrating how to improve coordination between environmental assessment and participation, thereby improving the creation of the plan and the decision-making. We organised knowledge sessions in which professionals in the fields of environmental assessment, environmental management and participation shared and discussed their experiences. Our recommendations also advocate paying more attention to alignment with the participation process.

We will continue to emphasise the relationship between participation and environmental assessment in 2018. We expect that in 2018 the public debate on the desirability of 'social impact' reporting will move a step forward.

International activities

More advisory reports and more capacity development

201739 advisory reportsin 22 countries capacity development
201626 advisory reportsin 13 countries capacity development
201527 advisory reportsin 13 countries capacity development
  • Country activities
  • Regional activities

Read more about our activities

Some of the work we do abroad is the same as in the Netherlands (for example, advising on terms of reference and reviewing environmental assessment reports), but we also devote much time to other activities, such as advising on environmental assessment legislation and regulations, coaching on strategic environmental assessment processes, training staff of environmental assessment authorities and NGOs, and screening project proposals in terms of local obligations for environmental assessment.

Our expertise may be requested incidentally or as part of multi-year programmes.

Dutch investment abroad

For some years we have been actively involved with Dutch facilities concerned with the aid and trade agenda of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We advise various of these facilities such as ORIO, DRIVE and DGGF on the role of environmental impact assessment in project proposals, the local obligation for environmental assessment and the environmental assessment process to be followed.

Advising on sustainability

We began advising the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on sustainability back in 2012. Our new agreement provides for prolongation of this: the NCEA will be specifically consulted about integral sustainability issues at strategic level.

We visited 31 countries

Bangladesh, Belgium, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Canada, Congo‐Brazzaville, Germany, England, Ethiopia, Georgia, Ghana, Guinea, Guyana, Indonesia, Kenya, Laos, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Myanmar, The Philippines, Rwanda, Senegal, Surinam, Sweden, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, Zambia, Zanzibar

International training programme is a win-win situation

Ineke Steinhauer Ineke Steinhauer, technical secretary

'Mozambican alumni of a Swedish training programme took the initiative to apply our knowledge to strengthen their environmental assessment system. A nice collaboration between three parties!'

International training programme

Once or twice a year, environmental assessment professionals from several African and Asian countries meet in Sweden to discuss the ins and outs of strategic environmental assessment in their countries. When they return to their countries they carry out a project for a year contributing to SEA development. During the meetings in Sweden we give presentations on our approach and experiences. We share lessons learned and coach delegates on their projects. This creates a win-win situation: we build up a network of environmental assessment experts in our partner countries, they receive support to achieve a good approach in their country. As a result, we have collaborated with alumni of this training programme in countries such as Mozambique, Uganda and Cambodia to strengthen strategic environmental assessment. Although the Swedish programme will terminate in 2018, we hope to continue to work with these experts in the future.

Room for the River in Myanmar

Arend Kolhoff Arend Kolhoff, technical secretary

'Our Dutch Room for the River approach is a true export product! Last year we successfully integrated it into sustainable delta development in Myanmar.'

River in Myanmar

The development of a strategy for the delta of the Ayeyarwady river is an important topic within Dutch-Myanmar cooperation. The Ayeyarwady (better known as the Irrawaddy) is the largest and most important river in the country and flows through a delta susceptible to the impact of climate change, inhabited by 5 million people. In 2017 we collaborated on an 'SEA inclusive Integrated Ayeyarwady Delta Strategy', as coach. Various environmental assessment principles were integrated from the outset, such as substantial participation of interested parties and the development of alternatives. Subsequently, two alternatives were distinguished: 'grey' focused on building infrastructure to reduce the risk of flooding and 'green' focused on controlled flooding. The latter is inspired by experience with the Room for the River concept in the Netherlands. The starting point for the next phase in 2018 is 'grey' where necessary and 'green' where possible.


spatial planning

New agreement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Rob Verheem Rob Verheem, director international

'For support to countries to be effective, continuity is essential. It's a blessing that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs makes this possible.'


We have entered a new agreement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the period 2017-2022. We will continue what we were doing, and add new activities. For example, our collaboration with the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) will be extended to all countries eligible for Private Sector Development funds. Also, we will intensify our work with investment and credit organisations in the Netherlands (for example, with FMO) and worldwide, with the World Bank. We are collaborating with WWF and IUCN to strengthen environmental assessment to ensure sufficient attention is paid to biodiversity and ecosystem services in policy and planning.

We also have the honour of supporting the Ministry's embassies and directorates for the next five years by advising on sustainability. This mainly concerns weightier strategic dossiers, such as those on controversial issues on which ministries or scientists find it difficult to agree.

Green diplomacy: collaboration with embassies

Sibout Nooteboom Sibout Nooteboom, technical secretary

'Knowledge of the local context and enthusiasm of embassy staff is not only crucial for our activities, it also ensures collaboration is very enjoyable!'

We collaborate with embassies in almost all partner countries. What this entails varies from contributing ideas about the application of environmental assessment for Dutch investments and advising on the sustainability of embassy programmes, to responding to requests from consulates to lend support to the local government. In 2017, for example, the NCEA and the embassy in Mali together prepared a workshop for the Planetary Security conference in The Hague on the topic of developing sustainable scenarios for issues such as malnutrition, unemployment and climate change and the associated security, radicalisation and migration.

We prepared a high-level meeting for Senegal, on dealing transparently with fossil energy sources. The embassy in Senegal sees environmental assessment as an important instrument for ensuring such transparency.

The International Association for Impact Assessment awarded the NCEA its Institutional Award in 2017, in recognition of our crucial role in developing qualitatively good environmental assessment in the Netherlands and abroad.

Environmental assessment - collaborating to achieve a solution

Gwen van Boven Gwen van Boven, technical secretary

'It is inspiring to see how workshops on environmental assessment increase mutual trust between NGOs, companies and government.'

Collaborating to achieve a solution

Within the Shared Resources, Joint Solutions partnership (SRJS), IUCN-Netherlands and WNF-Netherlands wish to intensify the dialogue between government, the private sector and NGOs, in order to improve decision-making about regional development. They see environmental assessment as a powerful instrument for ensuring transparency, accountability and fact-based decision-making, and have requested our support. In 2017, the first year, we gave introductory sessions on strategic environmental assessment in various countries, including the Philippines, Madagascar, Burkina Faso, Surinam and Guyana. In Indonesia we gave training on how to learn from past experiences. The SRJS teams in Madagascar and the Philippines look forward to us returning in 2018 to coach on a strategic environmental assessment for regional development. In Zambia we are contributing to the revision of the regulations relating to environmental assessment and we train public servants and employees of NGOs, with the aim of improving the quality of reviews.

Collaborating to achieve a solution


Anne Hardon Anne Hardon, knowledge and communication manager international

'In addition to the online tools offering a lot of interesting information, meetings and workshops remain crucial for sharing environmental assessment knowledge with each other.'

2.924 e-newsletter subscribers

648 followers on twitter

11 publications

58 presentations

A mix of on- and offline services

In 2017 we focused not only on our established range of knowledge products but also on developing more innovative products: for example, by developing infographics, new website formats, video's and opportunities for digital advice. As well as these digital developments, face-to-face meetings remain very important. It offers participants scope for asking questions and probing specific situations encountered in practice. We intend to continue developing these online and offline services in 2018, as the combination of the two often produces excellent opportunities for customised knowledge.


Clien Waardenburg Clien Waardenburg, head of operational management

'We are now fully settled in our new premises in Arthur van Schendelstraat, which we moved into in 2016.'

31 employees141 experts

15The Netherlands6 men9 women12,1 fte

11 International3 men8 women8,6 fte

5 Backoffice1 man4 women3.7 fte

111 The Netherlands

30 International

Organisation chart & list of experts


Veronica ten Holder Veronica ten Holder, director

'Our motto is "lean and mean": flexible staff deployment to cope with peaks and troughs, a simpler ICT structure and efficient use of space.'


€ 3.113.824 The Netherlands

€ 1.642.267 International - DGIS / Ministry of Foreign Affairs

€ 172.338 International - other

Financial statement

All amounts are shown in euros

The Netherlands 2017 2016
Staffing costs 1.778.145 1.667.321
Remuneration experts (project expenses) 1.044.015 1.177.566
Depreciation 15.637 41.457
Accommodation 133.141 182.624
Administration 23.799 50.745
ICT 61.719 72.554
General expenses 57.368 48.136
Total costs 3.113.824 3.240.403
Interest and miscellaneous income -20.250 -26.971
Income advisory services in the Netherlands -3.252.275 -3.543.003
Contribution from government departments 0 0
Number of advisory reports 168 159
International DGIS/Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2017 2016
Staffing costs 1.116.423 1.188.7197
Remuneration experts (project expenses) 337.087 439.015
Depreciation 17.383 33.862
Accommodation 100.938 105.651
Administration 14.137 6.252
ICT 40.317 41.035
General expenses 15.522 21.199
Unforeseen 0 37.792
Interest and miscellaneous income 460 -441
Contribution from government department (DGIS/ Ministry of Foreign Affairs) -1.630.306 -1.849.962
International other 2017 2016
Income international advisory services -263.477 -198.449
Staffing costs 105.135 97.709
Remuneration experts (project expenses) 67.203 69.771
Balance -91.139 -30.969

Mission statement

The Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment is an independent advisory body of experts. It provides advisory services and capacity development to national and international governments on the quality of environmental assessment and thereby hopes to contribute to sound decision making. The NCEA's extensive knowledge of environmental assessment is available to everyone.