Dutch court ruling on climate change could improve climate policies globally

18 October 2018

Dutch court ruling on climate change could improve climate policies globally

The Hague Court of Appeal made a precedent-setting ruling on 9 October 2018, providing a global example for engaged citizens to hold their governments to account for climate policies. The court upheld an earlier ruling ordering the Dutch Government to move immediately to take more effective action on climate change and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25 per cent by the end of 2020. There is hope that this ruling may stimulate The Netherlands to develop a policy to step up the fight against deforestation.     

Urgenda, the Dutch environmental foundation, filed this case on behalf of 866 citizens nearly ten years ago, and won a historic victory against the Dutch government – the first climate lawsuit in the world initiated by citizens. In June 2015 the District Court of The Hague ruled that the government must cut its greenhouse gas emissions immediately by at least 25 per cent by the end of 2020 (compared to 1990 levels). 

The Dutch Government filed an appeal against the original judgment and, three years later, Urgenda has won again. In this decision, the Court states that, given the dangers of climate change, the government has the duty to protect its population and to adopt immediate measures to cut emissions.  

The Court of Appeal makes ground-breaking reference to the violation of articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) which secure the right to respect private and family life. It is not yet known whether the Dutch Government will go the Supreme Court to appeal a case it has already twice lost.  

The Urgenda case has provided a positive precedent for 1000+ similar legal actions in Belgium, New Zealand, Ireland, the UK, Switzerland, the US and elsewhere in the world, contributing tremendously to the public debate around the political and social dimension of climate change.  

In Belgium, a climate lawsuit supported by more than 37,000 people illustrates citizens’ increasing awareness about the dangerous impacts of climate change on their daily life and urges policymakers to act without delay for the wellbeing of their children and future generations. Only one day after the Urgenda victory, Greenpeace Belgium also won the case against the Flemish region obliging Flanders to develop a clean air policy.  


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