This week it was announced that the House of Representatives has adopted the North Sea Agreement by a majority. The parties to the North Sea consultation can now jointly continue with the implementation of the agreements in the North Sea Agreement.
The North Sea is already used intensively. With the plans for large scale offshore wind development, as part of the Climate Agreement, the North Sea will become even more crowded. This has already caused friction between energy, nature and food supply. The different stakeholders, being the energy sector, fishery, nature organisations and port associations, have requested from the Dutch government to create a set of agreements on the use of the North Sea.
A North Sea consultation (Noordzeeoverleg) was initiated to discuss this. In early February 2020 the stakeholders reached agreement on a Negotiator Agreement. The North Sea Agreement was established in June 2020 and handed to the House of Representatives.
The agreement is intended to promote the various interests of North Sea users and contribute to a healthy Dutch North Sea. One of the topics that are looked into is developing construction techniques that further reduce the effects on nature. A good example is the SIMOX (Sustainable Installation of XXL Monopiles) project which was recently awarded funding to test 4 new silent methods for installing XXL monopiles.
The Agreement outlines the plans for the next ten years but also explores the period following. Sybilla Dekker has been appointed as independent chair of the Overlegorgaan Fysieke Leefomgeving, a consultative body for the physical environment, to supervise the North Sea consultation.
The agreements set out in it form the basis of other policies on the North Sea, including the ‘Strategische Agenda Noordzee 2030’ and the ‘Programma Noordzee 2022-2027, and for the policy on the development of offshore wind after 2030.
In the process towards a North Sea Program 2022-2027, active input will be requested from neighboring countries and other relevant North Sea states in order to discuss the possible cross-border effects of the North Sea Agreement and any plans of the other North Sea states on each other’s sea areas.
In EU-sponsored cooperation projects NorthSee and SEANSE, work is being carried out jointly with the North Sea neighbors to improve knowledge of the transboundary ecosystem of the North Sea and the cumulative effects of human use on it. Work is also being done on more coherence in the approaches to these effects. These projects focus on sub-aspects of use, in particular renewable energy generation and shipping.
The Netherlands is working with nine neighboring countries around the North Sea in the North Sea Energy Cooperation to learn from each other, to better coordinate plans and to make joint large-scale multinational wind farms possible. In the context of the accelerated designation of parks in areas other than the southern North Sea, the Netherlands will cooperate with Germany, Denmark and the UK.