25 Jun 2015   |   News

Dutch court orders government to do more to fight climate change

Verdict in world’s first climate liability case says current targets are “unlawful” and the Dutch State must reduce emissions by 25% within five years

In a landmark decision, a court in the Netherlands has ordered the Dutch government to up its fight against climate change, after judges ruled that plans to cut emissions by just 14-17 per cent compared to 1990 levels by 2020 were unlawful, given the threat posed by climate change.

The district court in The Hague said that by 2020, the Netherlands must cut CO2 emissions by 25 per cent from 1990 levels, in what was the first climate liability suit brought under human rights and tort law.

The verdict said, “The state should not hide behind the argument that the solution to the global climate problem does not depend solely on Dutch efforts ... Any reduction of emissions contributes to the prevention of dangerous climate change and as a developed country the Netherlands should take the lead in this.”

The case was brought in 2102 by Urgenda (from ‘urgent’ and ‘agenda’), a class-action group of 886 concerned citizens, accusing the government of not doing enough to meet international obligations to tackle greenhouse gas emissions.

“All the plaintiffs are overjoyed by the result. This makes it crystal clear that climate change is a huge problem that needs to be dealt with much more effectively, and that states can no longer afford inaction,” said Marjan Minnesma, one of the plaintiffs.

The Dutch are lagging in terms of greening the economy. In 2012, the share of renewable energy in the Netherlands was 4.5 percent according to Eurostat, well below the EU average of 14.1 percent. Only Malta, Luxembourg and the UK have lower shares.

The inspiration behind the case was Roger Cox, a Dutch lawyer and advocate who wrote a book called ‘Revolution Justified’, in which he argued that the legal community should become much more active in the fight against climate change, given the seeming inaction of politicians.

The government has the option to appeal, although it has not said yet whether it would.

An almost identical challenge is being pursued in Belgian courts, where campaigners hope there will be ripples from the Dutch verdict.

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