Supreme Court orders Netherlands to slash greenhouse emissions within a year

Greenhouse gas emissions
Greenhouse gas emissionsPhoto: kodda/DepositPhotos

Within 12 months, greenhouse gas emissions in the Netherlands must be reduced by at least 25 percent in comparison to 1990, the country's Supreme Court said in a ruling on Friday. The Court upheld lower court decisions that said the case was a human rights issue, and in turn ordered the emissions reduction, which Dutch environmental assessment agency PBL said was an unobtainable and "out of reach" goal.

The Supreme Court affirmed that climate change was a human rights issue, and said lower court judges were were acting within their rights to determine the human rights obligations of the national government, where the government argued that the lower court was trying to supplant the Cabinet in making policy decisions. "[The government's] point of view is rejected in the present case, because there is a violation of human rights by the State which necessitates measures, while the reduction order gives the State sufficient scope to fill in how it implements this order," the ruling stated.

"All in all, there is therefore a great deal of consensus about the urgent need for a reduction of at least 25-40% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 from the Annex I countries," following a report produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007. The Netherlands is included in this group of developed nations, the court noted. "The urgent need for a 25-40% reduction in 2020 also applies to the Netherlands individually," the Supreme Court said.

The case has been winding its way through the Dutch court system for about five years. It was filed by climate organization Urgenda, which said the national government was responsible for providing a livable habitat for younger generations.

An appellate court ruling issued in 2018 affirmed the decision, saying the Dutch State must protect civilians from "industrial activities," and "take preventative measures" to prevent the "loss of life or disruption of family life" for current and future generations.

Earlier this year, research agency CE Delft said the target was achievable if the Netherlands closed three relatively new coal-fired power plants by the beginning of 2020. Energy production would be replaced by natural gas-fired plants which emit half as much carbon dioxide, and thus see CO2 emissions fall by about nine million tons.