The Netherlands’ government has been ordered by a Dutch court to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% as of 2020 in a landmark decision. Environmentalists, praising the ruling, hope this will motivate other countries to do the same.
The case was presented on behalf of nearly 900 Dutch citizens by campaigners. They claimed that the government was legally obligated to protect the country and its people from climate change.
The government’s lawyers had no comment on the ruling in The Hague, and Greenpeace’s Jasper Teulings said it was a “landmark case,” and that, "It shifts the whole debate. Other cases are being brought in Belgium, the Philippines. This is the start of a wave of climate litigation."
The judgment has never happened before in Europe, and is a surprise. The Dutch government will feel pressure to follow through and cut emissions.
The government has already begun applying methods. It has made plans to close coal plants, increase windmill use, solar energy, and significantly lower gas extractions in the country's northern region. The court case forces the government to hasten changes to meet the deadlines and become more energy efficient by 2020.
The was made according to “Tort Law,” which is a legal term used to make the government take action to avoid causing harm.
According to the current policies, the Netherlands would only reduce emissions by 17%, which is even less than other countries. It was said that, "The parties agree that the severity and magnitude of climate change make it necessary to take measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
The lawsuit enacted via human rights laws by the Urgenda foundation, which claimed that the government had a duty to protect its citizens with these efforts. It said that, if these actions were not taken, the country would be particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate changes.
It argued that unless rapid action was taken, the next half of this century would see extreme weather, shrinking ice caps and shortages of food and water.
The Netherlands’ decision to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 25% will not be easy, and will require difficult and speedy actions to avoid suffering future climate change related issues.
The ruling will likely serve as a blueprint for future legal actions over environmental destruction, some of which we profiled previously here.