The Netherlands country profile - SDGs and the environment

Briefing Published 02 Dec 2020 Last modified 02 Dec 2020
Since the adoption of the SDGs in 2015, the Netherlands has worked on its SDGs action in an integrated manner for all 17 goals. From an environmental perspective, the country`s national priorities include energy transition, climate action, enhancing environmental protection and biodiversity whilst tackling present and future environmental pressures (Kingdom of the Netherlands, 2017).

As regards SDG 2, the country focuses on reducing phosphate, nitrogen, and ammonia emissions and ensuring sustainable food production, facil­itating a conversion to organic farming as well as promoting research and innovation in other forms of sustainable agriculture, such as permaculture and environmentally friendly farming (Kingdom of the Netherlands, 2017).

The Netherland`s action towards SDGs with environmental dimension primarily focuses on SDGs 2, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15.

On SG 6, the Netherlands aims to establish fair, efficient and sustainable water supply and sanitation services. The Kingdom anticipates that the high quality of drinking water may come under pressure due to climate change or water contamination. To meet future challenges for drinking water and groundwater quality, over 30 parties have signed a declaration of intent to jointly improve water quality further (Kingdom of the Netherlands, 2017). 

On SDG 7, the Netherlands has one of the lowest rates of renewable energy production in Europe. Thus, this SDG remains a challenge for the country. Measures and policies are being developed to find innovative ways to reduce industry’s energy use (Kingdom of the Netherlands, 2017). 

As regards SDG 9, the Nether­lands is promoting sustainable innovation and investment, particularly green innovations, such as a bio-based, the circular economy and electric transport. 

For SDG 11, the Kingdom focuses on 12 priorities, including air quality, the circular economy, climate adaptation, energy transition, sustainable land use and nature-based solutions. On SDG 12, tackling food waste and hazardous waste are identified as priority areas. The Netherlands gives high importance to reducing GHG emissions and achieving climate change adaptation (SDG 13) (Kingdom of the Netherlands, 2017). 

For SDG 14, the Kingdom is focusing on reducing marine pollution, toxic substances, marine litter and microplastics to acceptable levels as well as safeguarding marine biodiversity and achieving sustainable fisheries. On SDG 15, conservation, resto­ration and the sustainable management of nature still pose challenges. Thus, the government introduced additional measures, in particular to protect meadow birds and promote environmentally friendly agriculture (Kingdom of the Netherlands, 2017).   

Although the Kingdom of the Nether­lands’ starting position is promising, it has also identified certain gaps in terms of SDG achievement. The most challenging areas of action point to the circular economy (SDG 12), climate action (SDG 13), low-carbon energy transition (SDG 7), sustainable food and agriculture (SDGs 2, 15), and sustainable fisheries (SDG 14) (PBI Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, 2016). The Netherlands consumes large quantities of fossil fuels and has high per-capita GHG emissions. The share of renewable energy in the total energy supply is low compared to other European countries. The quality of groundwater, surface water and coastal waters, fisheries, as well as natural habitats and biodiversity are under considerable pressure across the country. It promotes sustainable economic growth (SDG 8) by paying extra attention to climate change (Kingdom of the Netherlands, 2017). 

In the Netherlands, responsibility for performing SDG action have been assigned to all the ministries concerned, coordinated by the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation which is the coordinating cabinet member for SDG action. An Interministerial Network of SDG Focal Points formulates and stimulates government action by proposing SDG-related strategies to the Council of Ministers. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs presented its Action Plan in 2016, advising on national coordination on a permanent basis. In 2016, the government reported progress on the Action Plan to the parliament (Kingdom of the Netherlands, 2017). 

The Netherlands has integrated tracking its SDG progress into the regular policy cycles. Every year, the government submits a report to the parliament, outlining national SDG progress. In May 2019, the third report (in Dutch) on SDG progress was presented to parliament via the regular budget and reporting cycle. Five umbrella organizations representing the private sector, knowledge institutions, NGOs, local governments, and youth each contributed a chapter to the reports. Since 2019, the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights has also contributed to the report on an annual basis. 

Statistics Netherlands (CBS) publishes regular reports on SDGs in the Netherlands. In 2016, it was the first national statistical office in the world to provide a statistical measurement on SDG indicators. The second report was published in March 2018. Between the two reports, the CBS increased data coverage from 37 % of SDG indicators to 51 %. In 2018, it introduced a new monitoring system — the Welfare Monitoring System (Monitor Brede Welvaart) — to measure citizens’ prosperity using a broad set of indicators, such as environmental impacts, rather than GDP. The thematic discussions around the system are intended to address the SDGs (CBS, 2017b).

The Netherlands submitted a VNR to the UN in 2017 and plans to present a second one in 2022-2023.

The Netherlands believes that national and local governments, the private sector (including the financial sector), civil society organizations, knowledge institutions and young people are all key partners in implementing the SDGs (Kingdom of the Netherlands, 2017). Thus, the country works closely with stakeholders to promote SDG implementation in partnership. For example, the SDG Charter is a growing multi-stakeholder platform with over 500 Dutch companies, NGOs, knowledge institutions and philanthropists who have declared their intention to contribute to the SDGs in partnership. The SDG Community is an online community of active stakeholders across sectors where partners can create profiles and showcase their work on the SDGs. In September 2017, the Kingdom launched the first SDG Action Day, during which the stakeholders discussed the SDGs with Members of Parliament and opened the first Dutch SDG House in Amsterdam, creating a meeting point for SDG partners. This event also initiated the ‘Adopt an SDG campaign’ by the NGO-coalition Building Change in which 25 Members of Parliament declared their commitment to one or more SDGs.  

Since 2019, the national assessment framework for new laws and policies has become ‘SDG-proof’, requiring law- and policymakers to assess the effects of their legislation on SDG progress. These adjustments will create more transparency on the contributions of new laws and policies to achieving the SDGs. 


CBS, 2017a, ‘Start of public debate on SDGs’, Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek, the Netherlands, accessed 16 November 2017.

CBS, 2017b, Monitor Duurzaam Nederland 2017, Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek, Den Haag, the Netherlands, accessed 22 November 2017. 

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2017, ‘Dutch Development Results 2016 in Perspective’, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, The Hague, the Netherlands, accessed 11 October 2017.

PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, 2016, Sustainable Development Goals in the Netherlands - Building blocks for Environmental policy for 2030, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, The Hague, the Netherlands, accessed 25 May 2020.

Kingdom of the Netherlands, 2017, Report on the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, the Netherlands, accessed 27 October 2017. 


The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.


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