Court orders Dutch government to cut emissions

The Dutch sustainability foundation, Urgenda, has won a landmark case in the Netherlands after a court in The Hague ordered the government to cut the country's greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25 per cent by 2020.

The foundation hopes the decision will set a worldwide precedent.

The Hague District Court made the ruling Wednesday in a case brought by the organization on behalf of some 900 citizens, claiming that the government has a duty of care to protect its citizens against looming dangers — including the effects of climate change on this low-lying country.
Dutch flag
Urgenda comprises co-plaintiffs including teachers, entrepreneurs, artists and children legally represented by their elders.

It is the first case in the world to use existing human rights and tort law to hold a government responsible for failing to reduce carbon emissions fast enough.

Urgenda asked the judiciary to declare that the Dutch government must implement policies to reduce its emissions by between 25 per cent and 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. This was the target for developed nations – established by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – as necessary to create a 50 per cent chance of avoiding a dangerous 2C rise in global temperatures.

The European Union recently set a target of reducing emissions by 40 per cent by 2030, ahead of the COP21 conference in Paris in December.

Reacting to the historic ruling in the Urgenda case in a Dutch court this morning, James Thornton, CEO of ClientEarth, told Power Engineering International: “This is a courageous and visionary ruling. There are moments in history when only courts can address overwhelming problems. In the past it has been issues like discrimination. Climate change is our overwhelming problem and this court has addressed it. This result reshapes the playing field for legal action to protect people from climate change."

“The Dutch court’s ruling should encourage courts around the world to tackle climate change now.”


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