Dutch court orders government to reduce emissions

In a precedent-setting case with potentially global implications, a court in The Netherlands has ordered the Dutch government to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 25% below 1990 levels by 2020, a target more in line with the goals set by other industrialized nations and substantially more aggressive than the Dutch government’s current 17% target. Ruling in a lawsuit filed by the Dutch environmental group Urgenda Foundation, the court said that the Dutch government has acknowledged the severity of the climate change problem in international treaties and has an obligation to its citizens and to other nations in the European Union to assume its fair share of the responsibility for addressing climate change. “The state should not hide behind the argument that the solution to the global climate problem does not depend solely on Dutch efforts,” the court said in its ruling. “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.”
Urgenda’s legal arguments were based on principles, including the European Union’s “precautionary principle,” dictating that nations should refrain from polluting to the extent that they harm other nations. The victory for the plaintiffs is also being viewed as a shot across the bow for other governments in the run-up to the next United Nations climate talks in Paris this coming December. “Before this judgment, the only legal obligations on states were those they agreed among themselves in international treaties,” Dennis van Berkel, legal counsel for Urgenda, told The Guardian. “This is the first a time a court has determined that states have an independent legal obligation towards their citizens. That must inform the reduction commitments in Paris, because if it doesn’t, they can expect pressure from courts in their own jurisdictions.”