Court orders Dutch government to protect citizens from climate change

protect citizens from climate change

Creative Commons: Robert S Donovan, 2014

The Dutch government has put its citizens in danger by failing to address greenhouse gas emissions, a court ruled has ruled.

In a landmark verdict, the judge said the government “must do more to avert the imminent danger caused by climate change” and ordered it to reduce CO2 emissions by 25 per cent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels.

This is the first time that a state has been held responsible for climate change action under human rights law.

The case, brought by 900 citizens with Dutch NGO Urgenda, was supported by the recently agreed Oslo Principles, which hold governments responsible for their country’s carbon emissions.

Urgenda director Marjan Minnesma said:

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.

It may be the first case of its kind, but it will not be the last – already Belgium has launched a similar case against its government and Norway is planning to do so, while in the Philippines citizens are demanding legal action on fossil fuel companies.

Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network Europe said:

The verdict is a milestone in the history of climate legislation, because it is the first time that a government was ordered to raise its climate ambition by a court. We hope this kind of legal action will be replicated in Europe and around the world, pushing governments who are dragging their feet on climate action to scale up their efforts. At the same time, the task specified by the ruling is not too challenging. The target should be much higher than 25% in order to be truly in line with what is needed to tackle climate change.

The results are a massive boost to those who are calling for those responsible for climate change to be brought to account.

With today’s verdict a timely reminder that governments have a duty to act on climate change, and as countries submit their climate action plans ahead of the UN climate talks in Paris this December, all eyes will be on how governments turn this obligation into real action.

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