Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment

Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment Annual report 2018

The NCEA stands for expertise, integrity and independence. Discussion on this arose in summer 2018, during the advisory process for Lelystad airport. Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management Cora van Nieuwenhuizen stressed the importance of the NCEA's independent position. This enabled the Commission to fully carry out its task in 2018 for a range of projects and plans. In addition, the NCEA further refined aspects of the environmental assessment tool, such as the approach for environmental plans and environmental strategies. This will continue in 2019.

We consider it important that our international activities contribute effectively to Dutch foreign policy. In May 2018, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Sigrid Kaag presented her new policy paper, which included a shift in focus areas. In the second half of 2018, we therefore explored which new focus countries need our support, with the result, for example, that there are new programmes in Guinea, Senegal and Niger and requests for cooperation have been received from Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan. We're delighted to be given the opportunity to work with new partners.

Advisory reports The Netherlands

Fewer mandatory and non-mandatory advisory reports

201863 mandatory81 non-mandatory
201784 mandatory84 non-mandatory
201670 mandatory89 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

Fewer advisory reports

We issued a total of 144 advisory reports in 2018. 63 were mandatory reviews of environmental assessment reports and 81 were non-mandatory advisory reports, for example on scoping at the start of a project, or interim reports on important choices. The total is less than in each of the preceding two years: 159 in 2016 and 168 in 2017.

Sharp rise in dike reinforcements, but fewer homes and wind farms

The number of advisory reports on scoping for the environmental assessment reports for water projects, in particular for dike reinforcements, increased to 14 in 2018. In 2017 there were only five. The increase in 2018 is attributable to the implementation of the Flood Protection Programme.

There were fewer reviews of environmental assessment reports for new residential areas and industrial estates: in 2018, we reviewed only 13 environmental assessment reports compared with 26 in 2017 - which is surprising, given the ambition of the National Housing Agenda to reduce the housing shortage. The number of mandatory and non-mandatory advisory reports on wind farms also decreased: 23 in 2018 versus 32 in 2017. This is probably because many procedures for onshore wind energy projects up to 2020 have already been completed and no new agreements have been made for the period after 2020.

Fewer advisory reports for municipalities and central government

In 2018, central government made significantly fewer requests for advisory reports: 17. This compares with 30 requests in 2017. A possible explanation for this decrease is that in anticipation of the National Environment and Planning Strategy, the government has instigated fewer plans and projects with accompanying environmental assessment reports.
The number of advisory reports for municipalities also declined: by more than a third, to 68 (versus 102 in 2017). Is tariff setting to blame for this? Research by consultancy firm Berenschot revealed that last year many municipalities were put off by the high tariffs. This ties in with what we've heard directly from municipalities - especially the smaller ones. There was an increase in the number of advisory reports for provinces: from 36 in 2017 to 58 in 2018. It is attributable to the Flood Protection Programme.

Influence of submissions by the public increases

In over 60 percent of the advisory reports - whether for scoping or review - we took account of submissions by the public. This is a clear increase over the 50 percent for both types of advisory reports in 2017. We hope that this upturn will continue and we will continue to emphasise its importance in our contacts with public authorities. If we are able to include specific information from different viewpoints our recommendations gain in quality.

33% of the environmental assessment reports were complete

We found major shortcomings in 67 percent of the environmental assessment reports we reviewed, which is a slight improvement compared with the 70 percent in 2017. In over 50 percent of the cases, the competent authority had the reports supplemented and resubmitted the reports to us for review. After that, 80 percent of the reports were complete.

As in previous years, information was mainly lacking on nitrogen loads on Natura 2000 sites, on damage to birds and bats, and on alternative, environmentally friendly solutions. What was striking this year was the lack of information on the impacts of noise on the human environment, for example noise from industry, wind turbines, roads and railways. Whether it could or should be quieter is a question that frequently remains unanswered.

Submissions by the public were considered in 60% of the advisory reports. submissions are important for our recommendations.


Are aspirations regarding climate and health compatible with the growth of aviation?

Kees Linse Kees Linse, chair

'There is a need for a strategic, nation-wide study into the advantages and disadvantages of growth in aviation, from which unambiguous stipulations for that growth can be derived.'

Major changes in the use of Lelystad Airport and Gilze Rijen Air Base and the growth aspirations of Schiphol Airport, Eindhoven Airport and Rotterdam The Hague Airport are provoking fierce resistance not only from local residents but often also from surrounding municipalities. The resistance is attributable to uncertainty about the limits to this growth and about the degree of government control, and to local ambitions.

In our advice on the environmental assessment report for Lelystad Airport in July, we called for a broad study into the consequences of the aviation. This study should identify the options for growth and examine and weigh up the impacts, as this will reveal to what extent the government can realise its ambitions: for example, those relating to climate and health. Such a strategic study and environmental assessment will enable the government to substantiate its choices for the development of aviation. The Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management undertook to carry out such a study in 2019 in conjunction with the preparation of the Aviation Policy Memorandum 2020-2040.

In our advice on Lelystad Airport, we also emphasised the importance of monitoring so as to be able to reduce uncertainties in calculations, adjust impacts and check for compliance with regulations. The discussion about the results of the noise-level test flight shows that when assessing the noise levels, more clarity is needed about the relationship between calculation and measurement. We will certainly bear this in mind in future advisory reports on aviation.

Environmental assessment and Environment and Planning Act pilots: concrete results for environmental assessment practice

Roel Meeuwsen Roel Meeuwsen, technical secretary

'The new way of working under the Environment and Planning Act has now been given real substance and with our advice we are making an important contribution to this.'

Environmental assessment and Environment and Planning Act pilots

The Environment and Planning Act will come into force in 2021. This new law integrates various 'spatial' laws into a single integral law. New instruments such as environmental plans, environmental strategies and programmes will be introduced and - in most cases - will be required to undergo environmental assessment. This is why we have been experimenting with the new approach to environmental assessment reports in pilot projects since 2016.

In 2018, the pilot projects Amsterdam Port City, Katwijk Environmental Strategy and North Brabant Environmental Strategy were the focus of attention and yielded new interesting insights. The development of the Environmental Strategy is in full swing. Themes such as energy transition, climate adaptation and social aspects in the human environment will be given a prominent place.

We intensively share the knowledge and experience gained from the pilots with provinces, municipalities and consultancies: for example, during advisory processes, conferences, knowledge sessions and via our website. Our website also features four new short films about the Port City, Rijssen-Holten, Katwijk and Binckhorst The Hague pilots (all in Dutch).

33% of the environmental assessment reports
were complete.

In the remaining 67%, essential information
was lacking

Dike reinforcement

Include environmental information in your choices about dike reinforcement in good time

Pieter Jongejans Pieter Jongejans, technical secretary

'During the planning process for dike reinforcement, important interim choices are often made. An NCEA advice on these interim choices can be even more valuable than an advice at the end'.

In 2018, we advised on 18 different dike reinforcement projects, mainly along the major rivers, but also along the Markermeer, the Wadden Sea and the Western Scheldt. These projects are part of the national Flood Protection Programme (HWBP).

In most cases, the environmental assessment report is drawn up before a decision is taken on a project plan under the Water Act which has already been worked out in detail. Important choices often appear to have been made earlier in the process: for example, about promising alternatives or about the preferred alternative. Sound environmental information can be very important in these choices. An interim advice from the NCEA can help to underpin these choices and obtain local support for them.

In 2019, we again expect to receive many requests for advice on dike reinforcements. We gladly share our knowledge and experience, so will be producing fact sheets and cases in the coming year. We are also organising a knowledge session on the Flood Protection Programme. More information on this is available on our website.

Energy transition: don't forget landscape, human environment and nature

Jan Jaap de Graeff Jan Jaap de Graeff, vice-chair

'Spatial cohesion in large wind farms and solar parks and the quality of the landscape and human environment are crucial in choices about energy transition. Environmental assessment helps to substantiate these choices.'

Energy transition

The Climate Agreement was much discussed in 2018. It means halving CO2 emissions in the Netherlands. However, the number of environmental assessment reports prepared for wind farms and grid infrastructure decreased slightly, probably because many procedures for onshore wind energy (2010) and the energy agreement (2013) have now been completed.

In 2019, a regional energy strategy will explore per region how CO2 emissions can be halved and what the consequences will be. Aspects explored will include the desired locations and size of wind farms, solar fields and energy infrastructure, as well as the role of hydrogen and geothermal energy. The results of these explorations will later be laid down in environmental strategies and environmental plans. We call for environmental assessment to be started already, as an environmental assessment report early in the process will give the regions access to high-quality information for decisions in good time, enabling them to properly compare various options and take account of environmental interests such as the landscape, the human environment and nature. The time available is limited and experience has shown that the information from environmental assessments can be used one-on-one in the discussion about the environmental strategies and plans. At the beginning of 2019, we will publish a fact sheet on the added value of environmental assessment in regional energy strategies.

More dike reinforcements

Fewer homes and wind farms


New challenges for a healthy human environment

Tom Smit Tom Smit, vice-chair

'A healthy human environment is more than just protection against the negative impacts of environmental pollution. It is also about providing a human environment that stimulates people to make healthy choices in nutrition and that provides space for rest and exercise. Environmental assessment gives a clear picture of these opportunities.'

The Environment and Planning Act is intended to achieve a healthy physical human environment and good environmental quality. By so doing it emphasises the importance of health in spatial plans; environmental assessment plays an important role in this. In the environmental assessment report, we not only draw attention to protection against negative impacts but go further and look for opportunities for a healthy human environment. A green environment with space for rest and recreation, where people can safely encounter others has a positive effect on health. Being able to opt for healthy behaviour, such as cycling, also contributes to health.

Of course, there are new challenges for health, such as the energy transition, growth in mobility and urban densification. Having to switch to a sustainable energy supply not only requires space, but also has an impact on the human environment. The effects of large-scale energy generation, transport, storage and use are new and partly unknown. This will have to be addressed in the coming years. Environmental assessment offers a careful process in which all interests can be represented on the basis of a balanced presentation of all impacts on people and the environment.

Finger on the pulse

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

'Monitoring and evaluation are becoming more important in order to be able to direct or redirect long-term developments. The environmental assessment report provides good points of departure for this.'

Monitoring and evaluation

Monitoring and evaluation form an important part of the policy cycle. This becomes even more important under the Environment and Planning Act because the duration of plans is unlimited and plans are flexible. Monitoring and evaluation are important in environmental assessment if the environmental impacts of a plan are not yet clear.

In 2018, in our function as Audit Committee we again advised on the monitoring results for extracting natural gas from under the Wadden Sea and deemed that it is justifiable to conclude that the subsidence caused by gas production has been limited and has remained within the permitted limits. However, we did recommend investigating in the coming year why numbers of pied avocet and red knot are declining in the gas production area.

We also advised on the monitoring plan for Amsterdam Port City. In such a large-scale urban development, which will last for decades, the question arises as to how developments can be steered in the interim. We shared ideas on this - an experience that municipalities other than Amsterdam would also benefit from.

In 2019, we will further explore this theme, including via a knowledge session and knowledge products.

International activities

201842 advisory reportsin 20 countries capacity development
201744 advisory reportsin 22 countries capacity development
201638 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, giving coaching on strategic environmental assessment processes, training staff of environmental assessment authorities and NGOs, and screening project proposals to see if they comply with local requirements for environmental assessment.

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

Dutch investment abroad

For a number of years now, we have been actively involved with Dutch facilities concerned with the aid and trade agenda of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We advise various facilities, such as ORIO, DRIVE and D2B on the role of environmental assessment in project proposals, the local obligation for environmental assessment and the environmental assessment process to be followed.

Advice on sustainability

As part of the Sustainability Advice programme, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (including the embassies) can ask us to advise on integrated sustainability issues: for example, relating to coherence of foreign policy, or to the environmental, economic/social and institutional sustainability of specific programmes.

Expansion of the field of activity to 6 countries:

Guinea, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Niger, and Senegal


Strategic environmental assessment for oil and gas in Senegal: will this be an example of responsible extraction?

Stephen Teeuwen Stephen Teeuwen, technical secretary

'This strategic environmental assessment process depends on good cooperation between the Ministries of Energy and Environment, among others. Acting as coach, we hope to be able to contribute as much as possible to this.'

Extracting oil and gas as responsibly as possible? Senegal will also have to deal with this in the coming years because large oil and gas reserves have recently been found off the coast. As the ambition to develop these in a responsible manner is high, the Ministries of Environment and Energy started an environmental assessment for their entire offshore oil and gas production in 2018. This is being partly supported by the Netherlands embassy. The NCEA is involved as a coach and is assisting both ministries to collaborate. We have also advised on specific projects: for example, by reviewing the ESIA for the Grand Tortue gas production on the border between Senegal and Mauritania.

Ethiopia: integrated decision-making at federal and regional levels

Gwen van Boven Gwen van Boven, technical secretary

'In a country like Ethiopia, where the use of land and water use is under pressure, the integration of environmental and social considerations in decision-making is essential.'


Ethiopia is engaged in a decentralisation process in which autonomy at the regional level plays an important role. The Dutch embassy is therefore investing in collaborative relationships with the regional authorities. One of the topics is the strengthening of local decision-making by integrating the environmental and social effects of proposed (Dutch) developments. The collaboration between the NCEA and the regional environment agency of Amhara regional state also fits in this context. We are supporting them in strengthening the scoping and reviewing in their environmental assessment process. In addition, we are assisting the (federal) Ministry of Water in applying strategic environmental assessment for integrated and sustainable decision-making in the field of water management.

International department 2018:

4 new employees

1 new vice chair


A large dam with cross-border impacts? A good environmental assessment is crucial

Tanya van Gool Tanya van Gool, vice-chair

'In complex projects with cross-border effects, such as the Fomi dam, a transparent and participatory environmental assessment process is very important. Clarity about responsibilities and objectives, research into alternatives and effects, and the involvement of all stakeholders will ultimately result in well-considered decision-making with the least chance of conflict at a later date.'

Guinea has been planning for the development of the multifunctional Fomi dam in the river Niger for many years. The dam could have important consequences for nine countries through which the river and its tributaries flow. How the dam is managed, for example, will determine the degree of positive and/or negative impacts in the neighbouring country of Mali. So, it's a complex project. The Guinean authorities will carry out an environmental assessment for the dam and have asked the NCEA to review the scoping report. It is essential for this environmental assessment both to identify the cross-border effects and to bring about participation by and support from the relevant population groups and authorities. Our main recommendation is that before drawing up the ESIA, the Guinean government should actively engage with the government of Mali and with the regional organisation for the management of this river basin (the Niger Basin Authority) at an early stage. In this way, any misunderstandings or expectations that could lead to conflicts at a later date can be avoided.

Is the Dutch support for oil and gas production in Africa consistent with commitments made for the Paris Climate Agreement?

Sibout Nooteboom Sibout Nooteboom, technical secretary

'If you want clarity about the coherence of foreign policy, the first step is to have a clear interpretation of this policy. In practice, this turns out to be a complex political task, as many interests play a role.'

Oil and gas production in Africa

Can Dutch support for oil and gas production in low-income countries be consistent with the International Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals? If so, under what conditions? These questions were put to us by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We recommended a four-step method that can be used to assess concrete project proposals. Central to this method is a satisfactory interpretation of Dutch foreign policy. What do agreements (international or otherwise) mean in concrete terms? Has this been recorded somewhere? If answers to these questions remain unclear, it will be difficult to establish consistency.

On 1 july 2018, the ncea's
international department celebrated it's
25th anniversary

25 years of cooperation

Rob Verheem Rob Verheem, director international

'The importance of an "honest broker" in environmental assessment lies at the heart of the cooperation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the NCEA.'

In 1993, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs met with the NCEA to discuss the importance of environmental assessment for Dutch development cooperation. It led to the first cooperation agreement to strengthen environmental assessment practice in Dutch partner countries. We are now six agreements and 25 years on, and the Ministry has made it possible for us to have advised on environmental assessment more than 500 times and to have built up environmental assessment capacity in more than 100 countries. Enthusiasm for continuing to do so is just as great as it was at the outset.


Anne Hardon Anne Hardon, knowledge & communication manager

'Infographics lend themselves very well to explaining complex environmental assessment topics.'

2.848 e-newsletter subscribers

735 followers on twitter

31 publications

61 presentations

Services available online and otherwise

More illustrations and less text. Infographics make it possible to explain complex subjects by means of drawings. Environmental assessment lends itself very well to this. We made several infographics for our Dutch and international audiences in 2018.

We also issued our three-yearly Views and Experiences publication of cases from Dutch and international practice. These include cases on the energy transition and a best practice environmental assessment for port development.

Last but not least, the new Dutch website went online in May. On the basis of user research, we retained what was appreciated and improved where possible and necessary. The result is a fresh and clear overview of all projects, advice, knowledge activities and products we offer. The new website of the international department will follow in May 2019.


Marianne Schuerhoff Marianne Schuerhoff, technical secretary

'We have been offsetting CO2 emissions from air travel for years. We are now also compensating for commuting to and from work and are investigating where we can reduce our impact on the environment even more. We're on course to being CO2-neutral.'

The NCEA's CO2 emissions

What is the NCEA doing about sustainability? In 2018, we looked into that question. In addition to looking at our policy on certification, we also scrutinised our CO2 emissions. The emissions in 2017 were approximately 166 tonnes, three-quarters of which are attributable to air travel for our work abroad. Just as we pay compensation for air travel, the NCEA will also compensate for 'other' CO2 emissions for 2017 and 2018. In 2019, we will go a step further and investigate where we can reduce emissions or where we can generate our own energy: for example, by consulting with other tenants of our premises and the landlord.

39 employees130 deskundigen

19The Netherlands7 men12 women15,5 fte

15 International5 men10 women12 fte

5 Backoffice1 man4 women3.8 fte

111 The Netherlands

30 International

Organisation chart & list of experts



€ 3.013.216 The Netherlands

€ 2.305.975 International - DGIS/Ministry of Foreign Affairs

€ 197.167 International - other

Financial statement

All amounts are shown in euros

The Netherlands 2018 2017
Staffing costs 1.784.475 1.778.145
Remuneration experts (project expenses) 985.914 1.044.015
Depreciation 13.963 15.637
Accommodation 106.329 133.141
Administration 21.107 23.799
ICT 45.683 61.719
General expenses 55.745 57.368
Total expenses 3.013.216 3.113.824
Interest and miscellaneous income 24.693 20.250
Income advisory services in the Netherlands 3.086.175 3.252.275
Total income 3.110.868 3.272.525
Balance 97.652 158.701
Number of advisory reports 144 168
International DGIS/Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2018 2017
Staffing costs 1.389.341 1.116.423
Remuneration experts (project expenses) 689.080 337.087
Depreciation 20.714 17.383
Accommodation 94.177 100.938
Administration 16.152 14.137
ICT 45.583 40.317
General expenses 28.082 15.522
Unforeseen 22.846 0
Total expenses 2.305.975 1.641.807
Interest and miscellaneous income 546 -460
Contribution from government department (DGIS/ Ministry of Foreign Affairs) 2.295.657 1.630.306
Total income 2.296.203 1.629.846
Balance -9.772 -11.961
International other 2018 2017
Staffing costs 130.272 105.135
Remuneration experts (project expenses) 66.895 67.203
Total expenses 197.167 172.338
Total income international advisory services 187.297 263.477
Balance -9.870 91.139

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 in order to contribute to sound decision making. The NCEA's knowledge products on environmental assessment are available to everyone.