Systemic failure in policy on the living environment

Expected late 2024
What is needed from society, the market and government to solve persistent problems in the living environment?

Background and request for advice

The Netherlands faces a hefty number of intractable problems in the living environment that urgently require solutions. These problems in areas such as climate, biodiversity and raw material transitions, housing and making agriculture more sustainable have long been something we were aware of. 'Tasks' have been formulated for the living environment, which together can radically change the use of space, the economy and society as a whole over time. The tasks involve the formulation of goals and measures laid down in policies, laws and agreements. Moreover, the policy ambitions are still being constantly tightened. 

The efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to climate change, reduce pollution, build large numbers of houses, bolster nature and produce food in a healthy way require far-reaching choices for a future-proof Netherlands. Progress is already being made in many areas, yet many key environment dossiers have so far failed to achieve or bring the intended results within reach. In the scope of the tasks, it is uncertain whether all ambitions will actually be realised.

Why is that? The interplay between government, the market and the community does not seem to function sufficiently well to bring about effective solutions to the complex issues in the living environment. Each time, government interventions (or a lack thereof) and the free market do not or not yet appear to be delivering the outcomes deemed necessary for society. We refer to this mangled interplay as 'systemic failure in living environment policy.' As a result of that systemic failure, problems in the living environment are now undeniably piling up. 

The Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations has raised the question of what needs to change in order to be able to make progress on the necessary major tasks in the living environment. 

The question for the advice reads:

What is preventing the major problems in the living environment from being solved sufficiently effectively? What fundamental choices are needed to actually solve them sufficiently effectively? What are the consequences of those choices? What forms of organisation and steering will this require, and what are the roles and position of government, the market and the communicty in this regard?


In December 2023, in preparation for the advisory process, we published the 'Exploration of Systemic Failure in Policy on the Living Environment'. In the exploration, we addressed the various persistent problems in the living environment that urgently need a solution but persist despite continued attention from society, politics and policy. We then analysed the drivers and causes behind the failure to achieve the desired results. 

The exploration offers insight into several possible explanations that are interrelated and influence each other in different ways. Broadly speaking, we have noted that the following aspects, among other things, may play a role in the persistence of living environment problems, despite ambitions to solve them:

  • The nature of living environment problems has changed.
  • The social conditions in which problems need to be solved have changed.
  • Institutional relationships do not fit today's problems.
  • The underlying values supporting the choices in solutions are not sufficiently articulated.

You can download 'Systemic failure in policy on the living environment: a problem exploration' here.


The advisory report is expected late 2024.

Composition of the Council committee

Jantine Kriens, committee chair
Yourai Mol, Rli junior council member
Krijn Poppe, Rli council member

External committee members:
Bernard ter Haar, self-employed, former consultant at ABDTOPConsult
James Kennedy, Professor of Modern Dutch History at the Faculty of Humanities, Utrecht University
Nanke Verloo, Assistant Professor in Urban Planning, University of Amsterdam


Information or response

For more information about the advice or to respond to it, please contact the project coordinator, Bart Swanenvleugel at, or call +31 (0)6 5201 2691.