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Future problems, bottlenecks, challenges and opportunities

The increasing demand for space will level off

Due to smaller population growth new demand for housing, industrial land use, traffic and transport will level off after 2020 in two of four scenarios. As a consequence of a decreasing labour force and a growing service economy, in three of four scenarios there will be no significant need for greenfield locations for industrial estates and business parks after 2020.

Population growth will slow down in all scenarios and in one scenario even turn into a population decrease. Yet income per capita will continue to rise in all scenarios. Both developments may provide incentives to improve the quality of living, for example by restructuring the built environment.

Living quality and safety issues

The smaller population growth may have negative side-effects like abandoned residential and industrial areas and deterioration of city quarters, if investment policies do not anticipate. In addition, immigration flows will have a substantial impact on city size and urban population. The concentration of migrants with little education in cheap housing areas of a few main cities with limited labour market opportunities for this group may lead to social segregation.

The (inter)national energy consumption and, consequently, the emissions of greenhouse gases will continue to grow. Climate change is expected to impose major water safety challenges, especially in the areas below sea level where urbanisation will be most rapid. The countryside landscape will change too: agriculture will be under pressure not only from growing urbanisation and demand for recreational facilities, but also from increasing competition from an international market, leaving little room for combination with nature. In other parts of the countryside, however, current ecological investment policies pay off and leave large areas of nature preservation.

Thematic results

The highest demand for housing will continue to be in the highly urbanized Randstad area. In order to avoid the degradation of city quarters the Dutch government should aim for restructuring and housing quality.

Industrial land use
Restructuring will also become a priority in industrial areas. In most scenarios there will be no further need for additional industrial estates after 2020. A growing service economy will gradually transform many industrial estates into business parks. As a result, environmental risks will decrease, but traffic will grow.

Traffic and transport
In the majority of the scenarios highway congestions will no longer increase after 2020, as a result of current road building programmes and saturation of car use. In scenarios with considerable economic and population growth, mobility will increase, especially freight transport. It is expected that congestion will remain primarily a problem of the Randstad area.

Dutch energy consumption can increase up to 50% until 2040 in case of high economic and population growth. Renewable energy will remain more expensive than fossil fuels and therefore dependent on state subsidies. As a result of gas stock depletion the Netherlands will become more dependent on importing coal and petroleum. This requires policies that guarantee sufficient energy supply.

In the agricultural sector scale enlargement and specialization will continue. In scenarios with liberalisation of the agricultural market and the abolishment of milk quotas stock farming will increase significantly, partly at the cost of arable farming. In scenarios with strong environmental policy the cattle farming will decrease. As a result, there will be increasing spatial competition between agriculture and nature. Until 2040 10 to 15% of the current agricultural area will spatially transform.

Nature and landscape
Biodiversity will continue to be under pressure, especially in large-scale, intensive agricultural areas. Bird populations will be affected first. Under strict European ecological policies environmental pressures will decrease and existing nature areas may partly recover. Desiccation, on the other hand, will continue to pose problems on nature areas.

Water safety
Climate change will increase flood risks and water damage. The lowest parts of the Netherlands, which are more densely populated and highly urbanized, are most vulnerable. Water safety norms should be related to the size of the population and investments to be protected and therefore have a spatial distribution proportional to population density and urbanisation.

Air quality will generally improve, apart from the CO2 emissions, which will rise without international climate policy. If current emission levels are maintained, the risks of climate change will continue unabated.