Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment

Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment Annual report 2019

In 2019, the 'Nitrogen Crisis' in The Netherlands put the spotlight on the poor state of many of our nature reserves. Energy transition, climate measures, house construction schemes and the layout of rural areas are all themes on which important decisions are now being taken. Environmental assessment supports those decisions with the required information about their environmental effects. At the same time, environmental assessment as a legal tool is under pressure in the Netherlands - a conclusion reached by research bureau Investico and by Arcadis, both of whom conducted research in 2019 into the quality and quantity of environmental assessments. The NCEA sees this conclusion confirmed in the relatively low number - 130 - of advisory reports it prepared in 2019. This was the lowest number of such reports since 1992. It is also reflected in the NCEA financial result for 2019. However, this result can still be absorbed by the financial reserves. In 2020, many municipalities and provinces will start working on the environmental assessment accompanying their environmental strategy and environmental plan. The NCEA is looking forward to this.

Internationally, environmental assessment is developing apace. For example, in an increasing number of low- and middle-income countries strategic environmental assessment is being incorporated into legislation and regulations, and social effects become a standard part of impact assessments. 2019 showed a decline in the number of advisory reports issued by the NCEA, but we anticipate that in the next few years this will change, also because of the expected increasing demand from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency. On the other hand, the number of countries whose environmental assessment system the NCEA is helping to strengthen has grown. We conducted numerous training courses on the application of strategic environmental assessment, we identified strengths and weaknesses of environmental assessment systems and advised on environmental assessment legislation. Finally, in 2019, we began working with the World Bank to develop a methodology for assessing the extent to which countries are able to integrate environmental and social aspects properly into their decision-making and project management.

Advice in the Netherlands

201945 mandatory85 non-mandatory
201863 mandatory81 non-mandatory
201784 mandatory84 non-mandatory

International activities

201934 advisory reportsin 25 countries capacity development
201842 advisory reportsin 20 countries capacity development
201744 advisory reportsin 22 countries capacity development


The NCEA is ready for an influx of environmental strategies and environmental plans

Most Dutch provinces and municipalities are busy with their environmental strategies and environmental plans. The topics covered in the environmental assessment reports that accompany these are not the same as those in classic reports. As a municipality, how do you integrally visualise the future effects of energy transition, climate adaptation or health? How do you build in the monitoring? In recent years, the NCEA - together with pilot municipalities - has acquired much experience with this. The number of environmental assessment reports for environmental strategies and environmental plans submitted to us in 2019 turned out to be low, which must mean that in the next few years the NCEA will receive many more environmental assessments for review from the 355 municipalities and 12 provinces in the Netherlands. We are ready for this.

Dutch investments in Kenya: focus on participation

The NCEA reviewed the environmental and social impact assessment for two water supply projects in Kenya. One of our recommendations is to pay more attention to participation. Kenyan environmental assessment legislation includes obligations to involve the population at all stages of the environmental assessment. In addition, good quality participation may create more support for the projects.

The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) supports Dutch investments abroad. Many such investments must undergo an environmental and social assessment, in accordance with local legislation. At the request of RVO, the NCEA advises on environmental and social assessment obligations, the process followed and the reporting. In 2019 we issued 21 advisory reports, largely focused on public infrastructure projects.


New director


Aviation Policy Memorandum calls for measurable environmental targets

Stricter environmental requirements? Or meeting air travel demand as much as possible? These are two of the four policy lines being developed and compared for the 2020-2050 Aviation Policy Memorandum. The NCEA recommended tightening up the various lines and showing how goals relating to climate, quality of the human environment, safety and the economy can be achieved. For the airspace review, we recommended investigating how air routes influence public health, climate and nature and how negative influence can be mitigated. On request, we informed the Advisory Board on Nitrogen Problems that there is insufficient evidence that the growth of Schiphol airport is not affecting nature. Further discussion on this will undoubtedly continue in 2020.

Compensation for expropriation

Land expropriation must take stakeholders into account and compensate them for the loss of land, as is also laid down in international protocols. The question is whether this obligation is sufficiently secured in existing protocols, or whether a new protocol should be developed. At the request of LANDdialogue we issued an advisory report on this, in which we noted that sufficient standards exist but that not everyone may be aware of them, or they are not being implemented correctly. It is questionable whether this would be solved by a new protocol.

This advisory report is part of our sustainability advice programme under which Dutch embassies and Ministry of Foreign Affairs directorates can request the NCEA to advise on integrating considerations of sustainability in the development of programmes and policies.


Festive symposium on the occasion of 25 years international department!

European Union: The Netherlands must improve its environmental assessment legislation


Averting conflicts in Mali

In July, Minister Sigrid Kaag of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation signed an agreement with the Malian authorities to implement a sustainable development plan for the Sourou region. A strategic environmental assessment (SEA) - one of the first to be done in Mali - was carried out for the development of this plan. In the foregoing two years we coached this SEA. It was an exhilarating process, which was completed to everyone's satisfaction and, according to the stakeholders, has led to mutual trust and engagement. The plan's investments in social-economic, environmental and climate projects will create conditions that avert conflicts in the area.

What should be done about nitrogen now?

The Nitrogen Action Programme (PAS in Dutch) provided scope for economic developments because under the programme, existing policy and additional measures would reduce nitrogen deposition. At the end of May 2019, however, the court ruled that the PAS may no longer be used as a basis for activities. It had transpired that in anticipation of future positive effects of measures for protected nature reserves, permission had been granted for activities that might be harmful to those areas. The judge's ruling that such 'advance permission' is no longer allowed caused commotion in the Netherlands. Yet back in 2015, the NCEA was already warning of over-optimism about the positive effect of the nature restoration measures included in the PAS. The advisory reports on announced nature restoration projects make it clear that nature conservation is a challenge and is becoming increasingly difficult. You can read the NCEA's views on this on our website.


Investigation by research bureau Investico: Dutch government quietly eliminates mandatory environmental studies


Manila Bay Master Plan: challenges for urban planning

Manila is growing rapidly and faces major environmental and social challenges that are strongly interrelated. Together with Dutch parties, the Philippine government is working on a master plan for sustainably developing the coastal zone. We are advising the government on the role of strategic environmental assessment (SEA) in this process. The NCEA has investigated when is the best time for SEA in the complex and rapidly changing institutional context of Manila Bay. The added value lies mainly in translating the sustainability goals for the entire bay into concrete, sectoral action plans that, for example, relate to waste management and land reclamation. A condition is that the government party embraces this instrument, because SEA is not yet mandatory at plan level in the Philippines.

Environmental assessment report supports regional energy strategy

One of the commitments resulting from the Dutch National Climate Agreement is to draw up regional energy strategies (RES). In 30 regions, research is being carried out into where and how best to generate electricity from wind and sun in the region. Heat sources that can be used by neighbourhoods and buildings as alternatives for natural gas are also being investigated. Preparing an environmental assessment report for an RES early on in the process means that the decision-making is optimally supported by environmental information. The NCEA recommendations provide pointers for drawing up the environmental assessment report. An infographic and a fact sheet provided by NCEA are additional aids. In 2020 we will again organise supportive RES knowledge sessions.


ESY mapping in Jordan: participation in environmental assessment regulations

"Every country wishing to improve its environmental assessment system should organise an ESY mapping workshop", according to one participant in the workshop held in Amman in November. As a result of the mapping in Jordan, the local environmental assessment authority is considering the need for more regulations for participation, as stakeholders have indicated that participation is not yet sufficiently entrenched.

At the beginning of 2019 we completed the new draft ESY-MAP together with the Southern African Institute for Environmental Assessment. In an interactive workshop, stakeholders use the ESY-MAP to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of their environmental and social assessment system. Since then, three pilot ESY-mappings have been carried out in Uganda, Guinea and Jordan. The results of the pilot will be used to finalise and release the ESY-MAP.


Including social effects in an environmental assessment report: so logical

Environmental assessment reports have long since ceased to focus solely on 'traditional' environmental impacts such as odour and noise nuisance. Instead, attention is increasingly being paid to the effects a plan will have on, for example, health, safety, amenities and social inclusiveness. The NCEA was for example requested to also include the social aspects of the land use plan in Zaanstad and the urban development in Amsterdam North in its advisory reports. Therefore, we issued a fact sheet on social impacts in environmental assessment.



Audit committee and review board

As well as advising on environmental assessment reports, the NCEA, as an independent body, is active as an audit committee and review board. In 2019 audit committees advised on the programmes monitoring the effects of natural gas extraction respectively of salt extraction in the Wadden Sea. At the request of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Works, the NCEA in its capacity as a review board scrutinised the nitrogen calculations relating to Lelystad airport, together with the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM).

Environmental and social assessment for strengthening the role of stakeholders

In 2019, the NCEA was involved with IUCN and WWF in training their partners at various locations around the world. The training is part of the 'Shared Resources Joint Solutions' programme for strengthening the role of stakeholders in decision-making at landscape level.

In November, for example, we contributed to training in Guyana on reviewing environmental and social assessment reports, in Suriname on terms of reference for environmental and social assessment in the oil and gas sector and in the Philippines on the application of strategic environmental assessment for land use plans.


More facts, figures, advisory reports The Netherlands

Fall in number of advisory reports continued in 2019

In 2019 the NCEA issued in The Netherlands 130 advisory reports: the lowest number since 1992 (when the NCEA issued 143 reports) and about one third of the number of reports issued on average in the years 2008-2010. Since 2010 there has been an almost continuous decline. In the two years prior to 2019, for example, 144 advisory reports were issued in 2018 and 168 advisory reports in 2017.

Mandatory versus non-mandatory advisory reports

Of the 130 advisory reports issued in 2019, 45 were mandatory advisory reviews and 85 were non-mandatory advisory reports on, for example, scoping.
The number of mandatory advisory reviews continues to fall: 45 in 2019, compared with 63 in 2018 and 84 in 2017 - nowhere near the almost 200 mandatory reviews in 2013.
In recent years, the number of non-mandatory advisory reports has been fairly stable, fluctuating around 80 per year.

Infrastructure projects up, water projects down

In 2019 there was a striking increase in the number of new infrastructure projects, including those for airfields: from two advisory reports in 2018 to nine in 2019. Meanwhile, water projects have plummeted: from 26 in 2018 to 12 in 2019 - probably because advisory reports for the Flood Protection Programme peaked in 2018.
The National Housing Agenda's ambitions to reduce the housing shortage are not reflected in the number of environmental assessment reports reviewed: 9 advisory reviews in 2019, compared with 13 in 2018 and as many as 26 in 2017. The current nitrogen problem and forthcoming Environment and Planning Act (in which additional obligations regarding EIA may also apply), are likely attributing factors.

Central government has taken virtually no account of residents' views

More support is given to a government decision if residents have a say and can submit their views about a proposal. We believe that our advisory reports gain in quality if we get insight into these views. In practice, however, just over 50 percent of central, provincial or local governments choose to allow us to take account of residents' views. A striking detail is that - except in the case of large-scale energy projects - central government does hardly let us take any views into consideration. For us an important point to take action on in 2020.

Quality of Dutch environmental assessment reports worrisome: even after supplementation, only 60 percent were complete

Most of the environmental assessment reports reviewed in 2019 lacked important environmental information. This is worrying and is a continuation of the trend of recent years. In particular, information on impacts on Natura 2000 sites was missing from many reports. More environmentally friendly alternative solutions and impacts on the human environment such as air pollution and noise are also still receiving too little attention. In a third of the cases, reports lacking information were subsequently supplemented and then re-evaluated by us, after which 60% of the supplemented reports were complete.

More facts, figures, activities International

Some of the work we do abroad is the same as in the Netherlands, for example advising on terms of reference and reviewing environmental assessments. 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.

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.

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.

29 environmental assessment advisory reports and 34 capacity development trajectories/ activities


Knowledge & Communication

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31 publications

61 presentationS


40 employees =158 experts =

18The Netherlands +7 men8 women12,1 fte + 3 vacancies

16 International +5 men11 women13,1 fte

6 Backoffice1 man5 women4,2 fte

111 The Netherlands +

47 International

Employees per 31 december 2019



Financially, 2019 was not a good year for the NCEA in the Netherlands: it ended the year with a deficit of over €700,000, to which the costs of our 'knowledge programme' (€265,000) will be added. Partly, the results for 2019 were due to an accounting error in the work in progress in 2018. This has now been corrected. However, the main cause of the poor result is the sharp fall in the number of advisory reports issued (from 144 to 130). In addition, there were other disappointing revenues and higher expenses for, among others, personnel and accommodation. The deficit is covered by the reserves intended to absorb peaks and troughs. The financial result for 2019 for the International DGIS/Foreign Affairs component of the NCEA is in line with the budget and fits within the multi-year agreements contained in the funding agreement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


€ 3.239.753 The Netherlands

€ 2.329.543 International - DGIS / Ministry of Foreign Affairs

€ 334.572 International - other

Financial accountability
All amounts are in euros
Dutch operating balance does not include budget for our 'knowledge programme'.

* Annual figures for NL 2018 have been corrected in the 2019 annual accounts.

The Netherlands 2019 2018*
Staffing costs 1.864.404 1.784.475
Remuneration experts (project expenses) 1.093.530 985.914
Depreciation 15.816 13.963
Accommodation 121.879 106.329
Administration 29.478 21.107
ICT 53.437 45.683
General expenses 61.209 55.745
Total expenses 3.239.753 3.013.216
Interest and miscellaneous income 19.241 24.693
Income advisory services in the Netherlands 2.512.126 2.691.175
Total income 2.531.367 2.715.868
Balance -708.386 -297.347
Number of advisory reports 130 144
International DGIS/Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2019 2018
Staffing costs 1.456.343 1.389.341
Remuneration experts (project expenses) 654.798 689.080
Depreciation 17.433 20.714
Accommodation 105.139 94.177
Administration 21.559 16.152
ICT 38.539 45.583
General expenses 35.732 28.082
Unforeseen 0 22.846
Total expenses 2.329.543 2.305.975
Interest and miscellaneous income 3 546
Contribution from government department (DGIS/ Ministry of Foreign Affairs)) 2.341.012 2.295.657
Total income 2.341.012 2.296.203
Balance 11.472 -9.772
International other 2019 2018
Staffing costs 228.605 130.272
Remuneration experts (project expenses) 105.967 66.895
Total expenses 334.572 197.167
Total income international advisory services 327.831 187.297
Balance -6.741 -9.870

Mission & Vision


The Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment is an independent, not-forprofit knowledge organisation, established by law, specialised in the field of environmental and social effects. It uses its knowledge to advise and support Dutch and foreign governments and other organisations in integrating environment, climate, and social considerations in decision-making. It does so with integrity and in an authoritative and transparent manner.


Through the work of the Commission, governments and other bodies have the necessary knowledge about environment, climate, and social considerations at their disposal, and know how to integrate these in decision-making. As a result, government decisions are of better quality, more substantiated and widely supported. In this way, the Commission contributes to sustainable development in the Netherlands and abroad.