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23 June 2015 | by Gabor Chodkowski-Gyurics

Dutch court orders climate action

Dutch court orders climate action
The Netherlands were ordered to step up its climate action by cutting at least 25% of its emissions within five years in a landmark ruling of a Dutch court in a case between the government and Urgenda, a climate change foundation. The verdict, announced on June 23, was hailed worldwide as setting precedent for bringing climate liability under human rights and tort law, that is causing loss or harm by non-criminal actions or negligence.

“Before this judgement, the only legal obligations on states were those they agreed among themselves in international treaties,” Dennis van Berkel, legal counsel for Urgenda said after the trial. “This is the first a time a court has determined that states have an independent legal obligation towards their citizens. That must inform the reduction commitments in Paris because if it doesn’t, they can expect pressure from courts in their own jurisdictions.”

The court said that the Dutch government's current plan to reduce current emissions by 17% by 2020 was less than the 25-40% international norm for industrialized nations, referring to the Kyoto Protocol.

Netherlands, a country with around half of its territory below sea level, is particularly vulnerable to flooding, the risk of which, the science says, is going to be exacerbated by climate change. Upgrading dykes and dams that serve as flood defences in the Netherlands is no longer sufficient and a decisive effort is necessary to reduce greenhouse gases emissions. according to Urgenda.

The government can appeal the ruling until September 24, although it is not yet clear it will do so. “We and Urgenda share the same goal,” the Dutch minister of environment Wilma Mansfeld 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.”

A similar lawsuit has been filed in Belgium by Klimaat Zaak, an NGO. “This”[ruling] gives us a lot of hope as it sets an incredible precedent. The government in Belgium will take a lot of notice of what’s happened here today. This could be the first stone that sets an avalanche in motion,” organization’s president Serge de Gheldere told Guardian.


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