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Dutch government forced to cut emissions

Landmark ruling orders Dutch government to do more to protect citizens from climate change
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Smoke Picture from MyGreenPod Sustainable News

Yesterday, a landmark ruling in a case brought to court by hundreds of concerned citizens ordered the Dutch government to do more to tackle global warming.

The Urgenda Foundation filed the lawsuit against the Dutch government for not taking sufficient measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause dangerous climate change.

The verdict is supported by the recently released Oslo Principles, which hold that all governments have a duty to avert dangerous global warming.

States should protect us

Marjan Minnesma initiated the case against the Dutch State in 2013, supported by a team of lawyers and 900 citizens who joined as co-plaintiffs.

‘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. States are meant to protect their citizens, and if politicians will not do this of their own accord, then the courts are there to help.

‘It’s all up to the State now. Luckily, sustainable solutions are ripe for the picking.’

Marjan Minnesma

The Urgenda Climate Case is the first case in Europe in which citizens attempt to hold a State responsible for its potentially devastating inaction.

It is also the first case in the world in which human rights are used as a legal basis to protect citizens against climate change.

Support for similar cases

The district court of The Hague granted the plaintiffs’ claims, and the government is now required to take more effective climate action to reduce the Netherlands’ considerable share in global emissions.

This is the first time that a judge has legally required a State to take precautions against climate change, and the verdict will now help to support all the other climate cases around the world.

Urgenda Climate Case

Groundbreaking verdict

The State has a legal obligation to protect its citizens, and has therefore been required by the court to take the necessary precautions. The court is ordering the Dutch government to do what the government itself has already deemed necessary in order to avert dangerous climate change.

The Netherlands must reduce CO2 emission by a minimum of 25% (compared with 1990 levels) by 2020, while current ambitions are hovering at 16%.

Denmark and Germany are already on course to cut 40% of their CO2 emissions by 2020, showing that climate change measures are both feasible and affordable. In its defence, the State itself said that it still sees plenty of room to reduce emissions.

Global attention

The case and verdict both attracted a lot of attention, from UNFCCC negotiators and international citizens as well as those in The Netherlands. Belgium is just one of the country’s with a pending suit against its State; others, such as Norway, are currently preparing their cases. In the Philippines, citizens are taking legal action on fossil fuel companies.

‘Millions of people who are already suffering the consequences of climate change are hoping that we, the people that have caused the emissions and have the means to reduce them, will intervene while there is still time.

‘Those people can now, with our verdict in their hands, start their own climate cases.’

These lawsuits are supported by the Oslo Principles, which holds that states have the legal obligation to avert dangerous climate change.’

Marjan Minnesma

Roger Cox: Revolution Justified

The idea for a Dutch climate case came from the book Revolution Justified, by Dutch lawyer Roger Cox – one of the lawyers representing Urgenda.

Dutch emissions

The Netherlands can’t solve the climate crisis by itself, but it certainly can do its fair share. Historically, The Netherlands is among the largest per capita emitters of the world.

The science is crystal clear: we need to prevent the Earth’s temperature from rising more than two degrees. Currently, the earth is headed for a temperature rise of 4, or even 6, degrees Celsius, which would create an uninhabitable planet.

The climate case has been translated into English, and this verdict will also be made available for other citizens that want to use the law to force their states to do their part.

The full verdict can be found here. Click here to find out more about Urgenda. More about Klimaatzaak, the Belgian climate case, can be found here.

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