Dutch stance on climate change is illegal, courts say

25 Jun 2015

For the first time in history, a country has been legally challenged for its lack of action on climate change, after the courts in The Hague ruled the Netherlands’ stance on the issue was illegal.

The case against the Netherlands was taken by 886 Dutch citizens who cited abuse of human rights and tort law as enough reasons for the government to be brought before the legal system, and now it appears a landmark decision in their favour will have serious consequences worldwide.

According to The Guardian, the courts have now ordered the Dutch government to get serious about tackling climate change and it has been ordered to cut the country’s carbon emissions by 25pc in the next five years.

The judges’ ruling said: “The state should not hide behind the argument that the solution to the global climate problem does not depend solely on Dutch efforts.

“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.”

The country had originally stated that they intended to cut emissions by between 14-17pc compared with levels seen in 1990, but the courts were convinced that this simply wasn’t enough and was actually unlawful.

‘We and Urgenda share the same goal’ — Dutch government

Unsurprisingly, the group of Dutch citizens who brought forward the case – Urgenda – has been celebrating the legal victory that has already seen similar group lawsuits in other nations, including Belgium, where 8,000 citizens plan to follow this model.

Faced with the legal challenge, the government must now begin implementing harsh and rapid changes to its infrastructure over the next five years if it is to reach the 25pc reduction target, but the country’s environment minister, Wilma Mansfeld supported Urgenda’s beliefs.

“We and Urgenda share the same goal,” she said. “We just hold different opinions regarding the manner in which to attain this goal. We will now examine what this ruling means for the Dutch state.”

Speaking of its importance, Urgenda’s legal counsel, Dennis van Berkel, said: “Before this judgement, the only legal obligations on states were those they agreed among themselves in international treaties.”

Parliament buildings in The Hague image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic