The Hague:
Local Agenda 21



Country: a) Western Europeb) Netherlands
Type: Project, Policy, 1
Area: City/Town, 100,000 - 1 mill.
Actors: Local government, NGO, Publ.-priv. partnership
Funding: Local government, NGO, Publ.-priv. partnership
Topics: Air-quality
Housing (and new settlements)
Information and public participation
Local Agenda 21
Mobility and transport
Solid waste
Objectives: Improve access to information
Improve intersectoral cooperation
Improve national / international cooperation
Increase district heating
Increase non-motorised mobility
Increase public awareness
Increase use of public transport
Reduce car mobility
Reduce energy consumption
Waste avoidance
Waste recycling
Instruments: New environmental institutions / Institutional reorganisation
New urban management tools and instuments
Public participation


In 1995 the City of The Hague set up an organisational framework in order to promote further urban activities in environmental areas of the Local Agenda 21. The coalition of actors from administration and interested people from the community, environmental groups, public utilities, business and industry etc. are working together in order to stimulate projects. These task forces are putting selected environmental fields on the political agenda and should add new initiatives to the existing local environmental policies in The Hague. This example of good practice is outstanding for the following reasons:

Concept and aims


Two thirds of all Agenda 21 issues are related to local government and urban development. However, most environmental matters are dealt with on departmental levels which do not often act with an integrated approach to complex problems. Therefore, the Local Agenda 21 programme of The Hague is a stocktaking of environmental policies and measures on the urban municipal level in the first place. It involves combining of existing environmental programmes and initiatives, as well as new ideas and concepts in order to assess the potentials and abilities of local environmental action.

In 1995 the City of The Hague set up an organisational framework in order to make further progress in the implementation of urban environmental projects in the following fields:

The idea is to stimulate local, community-based activities in environmental areas that can be dealt with on the municipal level. The philosophy of joining forces should generate new impetus into projects for a sustainable future. The projects should be designed and wherever possible implemented by task forces that act in one of the seven fields of action.

In order to safeguard the municipal and administrative backing for projects a project manager and a project group have been appointed by the City of The Hague. They are responsible for the overall concept, public relations, and the co-operation of different actors (compare actors and structure section).

Two programmes within the framework of Local Agenda 21 are worthy of particular mention:

1. Environmental Thermometer

The optimal use of local urban responsibilities is one of the key elements of the Local Agenda 21. However, new initiatives can only be started if the information base is broad enough. In order to get updated indicators on the overall environmental situation, the City of The Hague has designed a special monitoring model for local environmental quality, the so-called Environmental Thermometer, which it unveiled in 1992. This indication system enables everyone to be informed on the environmental qualities in nine areas: water, noise, air, soil, energy, nature, businesses, and mobility. For each area measurable indicators have been developed which take into account the following principles:

The indicators are indexed and presented in the form of a thermometer in order to get a visual result. Regular monitoring of the indicators which make up the Environmental Thermometer allows the City and the people of The Hague to ”see” changes in indicators of environmental quality, and assess the effectiveness of policies in achieving their stated objectives. A particular aim of the initiative is to keep careful track of those areas of policy which are failing to meet the standards set by the City.

The choice of the indicators was based largely on practical considerations such as the availability of data and existing, quantifiable policy objectives. The policy objectives chosen were translated into quantitative targets, and measurements of progress towards these targets form the indicators.

By putting all its indicators on a comparable scale, the Environmental Thermometer initiative recognises that a wide range of policies are important in achieving local sustainability. The annual review of progress on each of the indicators helps to identify those local policies that are reaching their objectives, and those that are not. And the visual representation of the trends towards, and away from, sustainability in The Hague over the past five years gives local people an instant overview of the effects of The Hague’s policies whilst helping the City to set priorities for the future.

The Environmental Thermometer does not set priorities on single environmental problems but offers a useful instrument to raise public awareness and to influence environmental discussion. The Environmental Thermometer is published at the end of the year and compares the intended targets with the environmental progress in the previous year and the year of its start in 1992. The overview of the updated targets gives an indication on the range of possible projects for the task forces in the above mentioned environmental fields.

Most of the work involved in the Environmental Thermometer project is done by the local authority and The Hague’s public utilities, as part of their commitment to Local Agenda 21. The data for the indicators are supplied by agencies and utilities within the Hague, and the City Management Service publicise and manage the initiative, including development of appropriate indicators.

2. Integrated Municipal Environmental Management

The main effort of the project ”Integrated Municipal Environment Management” launched by The Hague City Municipality in 1993 is that a corporation of all administration departments can provide an important role model to citizens and other community institutions of environmentally responsible behaviour. In large municipal corporations the "greening" of the workplace can be effectively promoted by establishing environmental management systems and guidelines for each department that address the specific mandates and procedures of those departments.

Within the project Integrated Municipal Environmental Management the promotion of environmentally responsible civil servants and efficient work spaces through the creation of a departmental environmental management systems is envisaged. The overall goal is to create an environmentally friendly municipal co-operation.

In the spirit of creating an environmentally friendly workplace and demonstrating an environmentally responsible role model for the citizens, all 22 municipal departments in the Hague, with some 12,000 employees, were given the mandate to establish an integrated environmental management system within their department.

In addition to saving money for the municipality through reductions in energy and water bills, this ambitious programme serves as an excellent example of responsible environmental citizenship. By setting an example for its citizens the municipality anticipates that widespread public awareness and public support for action on the environment will be enhanced. The decentralised process used in the project was found to work best within a structured framework which managed and integrated inter- departmental activities and communications. Two additional factors were found to contribute to the success of the process: the careful selection of motivated leaders for the environmental co-ordination role within each department and the support of the board of directors of the departments.

Implementation and future goals


1. International co-operation

The City of The Hague is taking part in the Eurocities project, which is a network of 56 cities to co- operate in their efforts to promote an international exchange on local environmental policies and good practice. The City is also participating in the European Commission Sustainable City project which is studying the implementation of Local Agenda 21 policies. Other international co-operations are twin- town activities like the support of the re-forestation project in the Nicaraguan town of Juigalpa or the collaboration with the water projects in Warsaw.

2. Energy

The City of The Hague also signed the Climate Convention in 1991. As member of the Climate Convention for the Netherlands, The Hague has committed itself to halve CO2 emissions by the year 2010 (compared to the 1987 level). In 1993 the City put an energy plan into practice which is aiming to reduce total emissions by 300,000 tonnes. So far a 75,000 tonne reduction in CO2 emissions has been reached by the following measures:

Between 1992 and 1995 some 1,000 energy saving advice surveys had been carried out by the Energy Teams.

More than half of the housing stock in The Hague has been insulated through the financial support of local funding measures.

Furthermore, new energy supply should come from wind energy. Plans exist to install a 750 Kw wind generator.

3. Waste and raw materials

In the waste sector the City of The Hague is pursuing a separate collection system for all waste fractions. Special collection systems are installed for organic wastes (including garden waste), small-scale chemical waste, paper, bulky refuse, residual fractions. For example, the municipality waste policy is to subsidise the installation of compost bins up to 200 tonnes a year. Compared to its own standards on the Environmental Thermometer, the City of The Hague has already been successful. The targets for the percentage of separate collections are 35% in organic waste, 32% in small-scale chemical wastes, 20% in paper collection, and 69% in glass collection.

Great efforts are also made in the area of demolition waste. New building regulations require the removal of rubble, scrap materials and materials suitable for reuse as an obligatory task from a demolition contractor. Compared to the 80% recycling standard of the national Building Ministry this policy proved to be highly successful, as a recycling proportion of 90% has been achieved.

In 1992 the selective demolition project was initiated by the city. A team of ten is checking buildings which are scheduled for demolition in order to remove usable materials (e.g. softboards, hardboards, chipboards). On average a worker achieves a saving in raw materials of 100 tonnes per year.

4. Traffic and transport

As in many urban centres, the restriction of car use and the promotion of environmentally compatible means of transport are the two dimensions of transport policy. In 1990 the local traffic plan set the target of a stabilisation of car movements. Due to the rapid increase in car use by 30% the local policy of parking space management and diverting through traffic by ring roads did not lead to the intended effects, since only a 10% decrease was achieved by 1995.

Promotion measures in the public transport and bicycle use sectors are looking more promising. The transport plan for municipal employees offers either a first class season ticket for public transport or the provision of a free bicycle.

The Environmental Thermometer revealed that the mobility sector is the most problematic field for Local Agenda 21. The aim for the number of public transport travellers in The Hague is 200 million per year. The length of the public transport network should be extended to 300 km. Some progress has been made in the area of traffic calming.

5. Nature and landscape

The maintenance of bio-diversity is also a goal of the Local Agenda 21. Due to financial constraints the municipal policy is restricting itself to the preservation of the status quo. In 1992 the Green Spaces Master Plan defined the areas of activity, but the complex issue of nature conservation and urban development is still under research and only a few new green areas have been added to the urban area. Progress has been made in selected fields of activity like the green belt along tramlines or the ban on chemical pesticides and herbicides from large green areas.

6. Sustainable building and living

The activities in sustainable building and living focus on the use of building materials in the housing sector. In 1992 the Environmental Guide on Sustainable Buildings had been published which gives an overview on forty building materials and their effects on the environment. In 1993 the use of environmentally compatible building materials was pushed ahead by subsidising the ecological choice in new buildings. The so-called Environmental Allowance is a grant of between 1,000 to 2,500 Dutch guilders, depending on the set of materials used. A further measure in the construction sector is the recovering of sludge before it is disposed of through the sewerage system. Currently, 85% of the sludge is treated and the filter sand is reused.

In addition, the municipality’s environmental efforts are extended to the in-house area although it has, for example, no legal power to enforce a ban on the use of tropical wood. Wherever possible the municipality is trying to convince private investors not to opt for tropical wood. Although there is no binding rule in the building order the municipality can set certain conditions which more or less represent a ban on these products.

7. Communication

Communication is a key element to influence the citizens in an environmentally-sensitive direction. Therefore, environmental education has become a topical issue at The Hague Local Agenda 21. The following activities have been initiated:

Actors and Structures


The main burden of work for the implementation of Local Agenda 21 goals is with the task forces. The task forces determine themselves in what environmental field they will be active and how they operate. Every citizen or environmental organisation can join one of the seven task forces which are working on the above mentioned topics of the Local Agenda 21 (compare Concepts and aims section). Besides single citizens, members of the task forces are recruited from the Hague Environmental Centre and affiliated environmental organisations, from community organisations, from business and industry, and from utility companies. The work of the task forces began in September 1995.

Their work is supported and guided by liaison officers who previously have worked as administrators or local government officials. They act as mediators between the task forces and the project leader of the Local Agenda 21 who is the head of the Environmental Department within the City Management Service.

The project leader carries the official responsibilities for the creation and content of Local Agenda 21 projects. He is in contact with the officials at the city administration and the district administrations. He also has the task to inform the community of The Hague on the projects. Furthermore, he is a member of a steering committee which should take an independent overview on the progress of the work in the individual task force, as well as work out recommendations for further activities.

In order to safeguard an on-going promotion process of Agenda 21 issues, the City of The Hague has set up this steering committee which is chaired by an independent person (currently Prof. Jacqueline Cremer, university lecturer for Environmental Studies). The steering committee guides the discussions in departments and task forces which are involved in environment-related work. A main task is to identify possibilities for cross-sectional implementations in different policy areas. In consequence, this should lead to a qualitative improvement of municipal environmental management.

The Local Agenda 21 project is administered by a secretary and a project group of six which should support the project manager. The project group provides the project manager with written documents and operational advice. Each member of the project group has specific responsibilities and expertise (public relations, environmental communication, urban ecology etc.).

The efforts of the Local Agenda 21 project were officially recognised in 1996, when The Hague became one of five recipients of the ”European Sustainable City Award”.

Source of Information


City of The Hague, (ed.) 1995: Sustainable development in The Hague - Local Agenda 21, The Hague

City of The Hague, (ed.) 2000: Strategies for Sustainable Cities – Focus on The Hague. Conference Report.


Telefon:++31 / 70 / 353 6128
Telefax:++31 / 70 / 353 64 0
Address:The Hague Municipality
Head of Environmental Division
Postbus 19350
NL - 2500 CJ Den Haag
Telefon:++31 / 70 / 353 66 28
Telefax:++31 / 70 / 353 64 90
Address:The Hague Municipality
The Local Agenda 21
Postbus 12651
NL - 2500 DP The Hague


The Hague :

The City of The Hague has approximately 450,000 inhabitants and covers an area of 70 square kilometres. It is the capital of the Netherlands, and governmental authorities and public services are the main employers in the city.



Project was added at 28.06.1996
Project was changed at 22.08.2001

Extract from the database 'SURBAN - Good practice in urban development', sponsored by: European Commission, DG XI and Land of Berlin
European Academy of the Urban Environment · Bismarckallee 46-48 · D-14193 Berlin · fax: ++49-30-8959 9919