By Amar Toor, The Verge
A court in the Netherlands ordered the Dutch government to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in what environmental groups are hailing as a landmark ruling. As Reuters reports, the district court said that by 2020, the Netherlands’ emissions must be at least 25 percent lower than they were in 1990. The ruling came in a class action lawsuit brought by an environmental advocacy group and nearly 900 Dutch citizens. It added that under current policy, the Netherlands would reduce emissions by between 14 and 17 percent compared to 1990 levels. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said developed countries should reduce emissions by between 25 and 40 percent in order to lessen the chances of a 2°C rise in global temperatures. The European Union last year set a target reduction of 40 percent by 2030.
“The state should not hide behind the argument that the solution to the global climate problem does not depend solely on Dutch efforts,” the ruling said. “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 class-action lawsuit against the government was brought by the sustainability organization Urgenda, on behalf of 886 Dutch citizens. The plaintiffs accused the state of “knowingly exposing its own citizens to dangerous situations,” which they described as a breach of human rights and tort law. The case marks the first time that a human rights and tort law have been used as the basis for a climate change liability lawsuit.
The organization hopes today’s ruling will have ripple effects in other countries. In March, an international group of lawyers, judges, and professors launched the Oslo Principles on Global Climate Change Obligations, in which they stated that governments have a legal obligation to combat climate change under human rights and environmental law. Activists in Belgium are mounting a similar case against their own government.
“Millions of people that 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,” Marjan Minnesma, who launched the Dutch lawsuit in 2013, said in a statement. “Those people can now, with our verdict in their hands, start their own climate cases.”
Court orders the Netherlands to reduce emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels within the next five years
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