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Dutch government slashes highway speed limit to tackle climate change

Robin van Lonkhuijsen/AFP/Getty

Motorists in the Netherlands will soon have to slow down to do their bit to tackle climate change.

The Dutch government put forward a new climate change package on Wednesday.

It includes a controversial proposal to lower the day-time speed limit on motorways to just 100 km/h (62 mph) from the current 130 km/h (80 mph). At night, the limit will stay the same.

The new limit is expected to come into force as soon as possible and will be one of the lowest in Europe. In neighboring Germany, some sections of highways have no speed limit at all.

The Dutch government has little room for maneuver. Last year, it was told by a court to take urgent measures to reduce emissions. The court also ordered the government to ensure that the country’s emissions in 2020 will be at least 25% lower than those in 1990.

The court’s decision forced the government to put a number of large construction projects on hold.

Writing on his official Facebook account Wednesday, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the new speed limit was a “rotten measure,” but added it was necessary in order to protect jobs and builders.

The Netherlands is particularly vulnerable to climate change, because much of its territory lies below sea level.

The decision to lower the speed limit follows months of disruptive protests by Dutch farmers, who argued that the government was unfairly blaming them for climate change.

The package adopted by the government is aimed at reducing the amount of nitrogen pollution and also includes measures to tackle emissions from agriculture through changes to livestock feed.

Experts have previously called for lower speed limits to cut on pollution.

According to research by the European Environmental Agency, lowering the highway speed limit from 120 km/h (75 mph) to 110 km/h (68 mph) could cut the fuel consumption of cars by up to 18%.

However, the agency admits its calculation is based on an assumption of smooth driving by those who follow speed limits.

“Relaxing these assumptions to a more realistic setting implies a saving of just 2% and 3%,” the agency said in August.

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