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Thousands protest after Dutch government awards fossil fuel subsidies

A protestor holds a sign reading "Fossil Subsidies Are Not Cool" as she blocks a highway near the Dutch parliament in The Hague, Netherlands, Sept. 9, 2023.
A protestor holds a sign reading "Fossil Subsidies Are Not Cool" as she blocks a highway near the Dutch parliament in The Hague, Netherlands, Sept. 9, 2023. Copyright AP Photo/Peter Dejong
Copyright AP Photo/Peter Dejong
By Daniel Bellamy with AP
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Climate activists blocked a Dutch highway on Saturday in anger at billions of euros in government subsidies for industries that use oil, coal and gas.

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A report earlier this week detailed that at least 37.5 billion euros in such subsidies were awarded in the Netherlands, notably related to the shipping industry.

The protesters — from Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace and other organisations — broke through a police barrier on Saturday morning and sat on a main road in The Hague heading to the temporary venue for the lower house of parliament.

They threatened to stay until the subsidies are lifted, and to come back every day if the police remove them. "This is much larger than any one of us. This concerns the whole world,” activist Yolanda de Jager said.

The activists brandished signs with sayings like “Fossil Fuel Subsidies are Not Cool,” and warned that the extreme temperatures seen around the world this summer are a sign of the future, if fossil fuels aren’t abandoned.

After several hours, police moved in and fired water cannon at the crowd, and picked up or dragged some protesters away, wheeling them away in special orange wagons.

Protesters on the front line held up their fists in resistance or put their heads down to protect themselves from the jets of water. Those farther back danced and jumped up and down under the spray, appearing to enjoy the shower on an unusually hot September day for the Netherlands

The roadblock is part of a series of protests led by Extinction Rebellion targeting the Dutch parliament.

The report published last Monday said the Dutch government spends tens of billions per year in subsidies to industries that use fossil fuels. It was published by the The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, known as SOMO, the Dutch arm of Friends of the Earth and Oil Change International.

The country is often seen as a leader in renewable energy and progressive climate policies, and Minister for Climate and Energy Rob Jetten acknowledged that the country has to end the subsidies, but has offered no timeline.

The report calls on lawmakers to begin phasing out the subsidies before the country’s Nov. 22 general election.

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