The Future of the North Sea

The scenario study ‘The Future of the North Sea’ explores the spatial and ecological impact of possible developments on the North Sea, up to 2050, with regard to nature, energy transition and food supply. The PBL study uses four scenarios to do so.

Use of space at the North Sea under pressure

Many things are planned for the North Sea. The Netherlands has implemented policy to achieve environmental improvements no later than by 2020, in compliance with EU regulations. The fishing industry is looking for ways to remain economically viable despite the Brexit and the looming ban on electric pulse fishing. At the same time, the Dutch Cabinet wishes to use the North Sea to make headway with achieving its climate targets under the Paris Agreement—by constructing offshore wind farms and storing CO2 in former natural gas fields.

All this will have a large impact of the use of space at the North Sea.

Four scenarios

The study addresses the following questions: ‘What are the spatial and ecological consequences of plausible developments in the North Sea and, in particular, on the Dutch continental shelf, and what are the policy implications?’

Four North Sea scenarios were developed for this study:

  • Two of these scenarios were based on scenarios in the outlook study ‘The Netherlands in 2030 and 2050’, which forecasts Welfare, Prosperity and Quality of the Living Environment (WLO) (Nederland in 2030 en 2050). These scenarios build on policy as it stood in 2015, and are characterised by low, or high dynamics in economy, technology, climate and other areas. Both scenarios assume that, in the future, current government policy will continue unchanged.
  • Two ‘sustainability scenarios’ assume that additional policy will be developed that contributes to the climate ambitions in the Paris Agreement and the UN sustainable development goal with implications for the North Sea. These scenarios also enable consideration of how to shape the ‘energy transition’, ‘resilient ecosystems’ and ‘sustainable food supply’ themes from the 2030 North Sea Strategy and the National Integrated Environmental Policy Strategy (Nationale Omgevingsvisie, which has a time horizon of 2050).


PBL Authors
Jan Matthijsen Ed Dammers Hans Elzenga


Publication title
The Future of the North Sea
Publication date
26 August 2018
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