Green (Nether)Lands in 2050

What will the Netherlands look like in 25 years? To answer this, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) has developed four future scenarios for the Netherlands in 2050. PosadMaxwan further elaborated and visualised the spatial consequences for each scenario. Each scenario is based on a normative view of society and examines what the Netherlands could look like if certain values were central. In the "Green Land" scenario, respecting ecological boundaries is paramount. A post-growth economy emerges in a green and healthy landscape, where the balance between people and nature is central. Restoring biodiversity and reducing our ecological footprint is the main goal. But what does this mean for the spatial planning of our country?

Water and soil-influenced

In the Green Land scenario, we can experience what it means to focus strongly on water and soil as guiding principles. In parts of the Netherlands, we would clearly see a different use of space than we are used to now. Rivers, for example, are given extra space, allowing them to safely overflow their banks during extreme rainfall. On the map below, the river country, the centre of the Netherlands and the areas around the IJssel are therefore coloured entirely blue. In these areas, it is possible to combine space for the river with, for instance, sustainable energy generation.

Another important aspect of the scenario, with great spatial impact, is nature-inclusive agriculture. This form of agriculture focuses on healthy soil and gives space to nature. By returning parts of the agricultural area to nature, it becomes possible to expand and connect nature areas into one national nature network. Especially in areas where smaller nature reserves are now densely packed, such as in South Limburg, a strategy like this ensures the creation of (new) national landscapes.

In practice

In the river valleys of Brabant, you can experience how water and soil will play an important role in future spatial policy. The high-lying sandy soils face drought, while the valleys have to deal with peaks in water levels. Both can have catastrophic consequences, such as wildfires, loss of biodiversity or floods. In this future scenario, water buffers are constructed where it is high and dry, while in the lower river valleys, as in the peat meadows of the Green Heart and Friesland, space is made for new wetlands. These are nature-inclusive solutions on a large scale.


Less freedom to consume

In Green Land, freedom to consume will be limited by the introduction of planet points. A personal annual budget for climate-unfriendly choices. Reuse and recycling of all resources are therefore essential within this scenario. Proximity of living, working and facilities is also needed to reduce CO2 emissions while travelling. Cities are therefore compact and organised around public transport hubs.  These measures seek to restore the balance between planet and people, with inevitable consequences for choice in consumption, living and travel.


Nature-inclusive is the norm

This green scenario sets a high bar for the Netherlands in 2050. Some social changes are difficult to implement or even unwanted. Fortunately, many of the measures in the scenario, such as overflow space for rivers, space for nature, compact cities or a different design of agriculture, can already be applied today. The scenario also shows that things can also be done differently in the Netherlands. We have become used to the land of meadows, cows and cheese, but once we let go of that, we can live in a country with plenty of space for nature and recreation. This provides a good basis for a green and healthy living environment, where nature-inclusive is the new normal.


According to PBL, Green Land was the only scenario that could meet our government's climate goals. For a healthy and sustainable future of our country, we cannot avoid adopting (many) of the proposed measures. A conversation about the desirability and undesirability of this cannot begin early enough.