Aligning agricultural production and environmental regulation: An integrated assessment of the Netherlands

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Climate change mitigation requires a transition towards a more sustainable system which eventually achieves circularity and climate-neutrality in all sectors, including agriculture. Despite the consensus about this ultimate goal, there is no unique way forward to achieve it. In this regard, usual questions that policy-makers face without having a clear answer relate to the potential deployment of new technology, the possibility of limiting certain economic activities, the externalities that will emanate from their interventions, etc. The aim of this study is to support the policy debate by exploring the potential impacts of several pathways that Dutch agriculture could follow for this transition. This paper presents a methodological approach on how to translate policy objectives into sustainability requirements using a linear programming (LP) model. This model which delivers insights on the optimal size of several agricultural activities has been used for facilitating stakeholder participation in scenario design. By using the Netherlands as a case study, an integrated assessment of several pathways that the Dutch agricultural sector could follow was carried out to contribute to the design of the future development strategy. The outcomes of the multidisciplinary assessment shows that it is feasible to meet long-term (2050) climate and environmental objectives for Dutch agriculture along different pathways. More specifically, limiting the size of the livestock sectors turned out to be necessary to achieve the intended emissions reductions. As a result the land use changed, with an increase in (agro-)forestry being unavoidable when strict climate neutrality would be required.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105388
JournalLand Use Policy
Early online date21 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Agriculture
  • Climate change
  • Environmental constraints
  • Linear programming
  • Policy-making
  • Resource allocation


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