Dutch state must do more to reduce emissions, court rules

greenhouse gas emissions Frank J. (Frank John) Aleksandrowicz Wikimedia commons

The Dutch State must do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the court in The Hague ruled after dismissing each of the state attorney's arguments one after the other. The Hague court therefore maintains a previous ruling three years ago that was a groundbreaking victory for environmental organization Urgenda. The State appealed against that ruling, NOS reports.

Urgenda demands that the Dutch State take measures to ensure that the emission of greenhouse gasses in 2020 is reduced by 25 percent compared to 1990. The court in The Hague concluded that 25 percent is the bare minimum for the State to comply with its duty of care. There is a "real threat" due to climate change, the court emphasized.

The state attorney argued that the Netherlands is only a small country and that climate change is a global problem. The court acknowledged this, but added that this "does not relieve the Netherlands of the obligation to make efforts from its territory to provide protection against climate change". 

The fact that the Netherlands set itself the goal of reducing emissions by 49 percent by 2030, also did not mean much to the court. It's necessary to intervene now, to limit risks and extra costs, the court ruled. Last year emissions were 13 percent lower than in 1990. According to the court, the Netherlands is on track to reduce emissions by 23 percent. But there is an important uncertainty margin of 19 to 27 percent. For this reason, there is a real chance that the reduction will be lower and that is "not acceptable", the court said.

The Dutch State has a duty of care and must take measures to protect civilians "against industrial activities", the court repeatedly emphasized. "In case of danger, the state must take preventative measures." If the State doesn't intervene, there is a risk that "the current generation will be faced with loss of life or disruption of family life". 

The state attorney also argued that the separation of powers prescribes that the court can not interfere in political decisions. But the court also dismissed that argument because the Netherlands has bound itself to international treaties, which are legally binding and thus legally verifiable by the Dutch court.