In a landmark ruling, the Hague District Court has ruled that the State must take more action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Netherlands.
The court found the State’s current policy of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels – below the norm of 25-40 percent for developed countries – unlawful, as the State has a duty of care to protect and improve the living environment; critical given many parts of the Netherlands are below sea level and vulnerable to rising sea levels attributed to climate change.
The ruling was based on a complaint filed by Urgenda Foundation – a citizens’ platform that develops plans and measures to prevent climate change and represents 886 Dutch plaintiffs – that accuses the Dutch government of negligence for ‘’knowingly contributing’’ to a breach of the two degrees Celsius maximum target for global warming. Specifically, the Urgenda complaint calls for the Dutch government to reduce greenhouse gases by 40 percent by 2020 relative to Dutch emissions in 1990.
Netherlands should take the lead
With the court finding the State responsible for effectively controlling Dutch emission levels the court stated the government should not hide behind the argument that any solution to the global climate problem does not depend solely on Dutch efforts. Instead, the court ruled that 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.
Nonetheless, the court, acknowledging that it must respect the government’s scope for policy-making as well as exercise restraint, ordered a cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020, the lower limit of the 25-40 percent norm.
The challenge will be to make further emission cuts over this period of time given the Netherlands is a large user of natural gas and only 4.5 percent of Dutch energy consumption comes from renewable energy in 2013 compared to the EU average of 15 percent.
A Dutch court has ruled the State is responsible for controlling greenhouse gas emissions – a landmark ruling that could set a precedent for other jurisdictions in Europe and beyond.