Dutch court orders government to do more to fight climate changeÉanna Kelly, Science|Business, June 25, 2015
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.
Dutch government loses world’s first climate liability lawsuitBy Catherine Brahic and Rowan Hooper, June 24, 2015 11:38
The Dutch government has lost a landmark legal case over its greenhouse gas emissions plans.
The environmental group Urgenda brought a class action suit over climate change on behalf of some 900 citizens, including children. The suit claimed that the government’s action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is insufficient, and is therefore “knowingly exposing its own citizens to dangerous situations”.
Urgenda asked that the court in the Hague “declare that global warming of more than 2 °C will lead to a violation of fundamental human rights worldwide”. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, governments must cut emissions to between 25 and 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 to have a 50 per cent chance of avoiding 2 °C. Yet European Union states have signed up for 40 per cent cuts by 2030.
Three judges agreed with the class action suit, ruling that government plans to cut emissions by 14-17 per cent compared to 1990 levels by 2020 were illegal. The ruling said: “The state should not hide behind the argument that the solution to the global climate problem does not depend solely on Dutch efforts.”
Marjan Minnesma, who initiated the case in 2013, made a statement through Urgenda. “All the plaintiffs are overjoyed by the result,” she said. “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.”
Ahead of the ruling, James Arrandale of London-based environmental law firm Client Earth said it would be groundbreaking for Urgenda to win. It would lead to similar suits in other countries, he said. A Belgian group is already on the case.
A key point, said Arrandale, is to show that governments already have legal obligations to cut emissions, regardless of the outcome of the UN climate talks. To that end, a group of international legal experts published the Oslo Principles on 30 March, which set out existing legal obligations on governments to safeguard the climate.