Can striving for an inclusive and sustainable Netherlands go hand in hand with providing fossil subsidies? VNO-NCW thinks so. Last week, VNO-NCW signed a letter published in de Volkskrant calling for the provision of fossil fuel subsidies. Adjusting the rules of the game, and thus reducing or stopping fossil subsidies, would have a counterproductive effect on the climate. An incorrect and untenable argument that is often cited by the fossil fuel industry. Or, as Professor Machiel Mulder described it very nuanced in the newspaper Trouw: “The argument that a deteriorating competitive position can lead to the leakage of CO2 because companies shift their activities has been exaggerated.” This begs the question: to whose tune is VNO-NCW dancing?
VNO-NCW itself indicates that it represents 185,000 companies through sector organizations that are members of them. In other words, VNO-NCW speaks on behalf of all these companies when it says that governments should continue to provide fossil subsidies. A measure that mainly offers advantages for the fossil industry and is not in line with the climate goals set by, for example, the listed Netherlands. It is certainly not the case that these 185,000 companies agree with VNO-NCW by definition, but those who remain silent therefore agree with the fossil industry.
VNO-NCW exists by the grace of its members. This not only entails a responsibility for VNO-NCW to properly represent its members but also a responsibility for its members to correct VNO-NCW if it does not represent them properly. It is therefore important that members of VNO-NCW who indicate that they really support sustainability now open their mouths. It cannot be the case that a company on the one hand indicates that it wants to move towards a more sustainable world and that at the same time, a trade association says on their behalf that governments should continue to subsidize the fossil fuel industry. If companies such as a.s.r., NN Group, and Philips, all of which say that sustainability is of paramount importance, do nothing now, then they too are dancing to the tune of the fossil industry.