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Dutch High Court orders state to improve emissions reduction target in landmark ruling

The Dutch Supreme Court
The Dutch Supreme Court Copyright Bas Kijzers / Rijksvastgoedbedrijf
Copyright Bas Kijzers / Rijksvastgoedbedrijf
By Alice Tidey
Published on Updated
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The Urgenda environmental group has come out victorious of its six-year legal battle against the Netherlands with the High Court citing the EU's Convention of Human Rights in its ruling.


The Dutch High Court on Friday ordered the government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% below 1990 levels by the end of next year in a ruling that could have repercussions around the world.

Urgenda, the environmental group who launched the legal proceeding back in 2013, welcomed the decision as "historic" and "groundbreaking".

Damian Rau, one of the co-plaintiffs who initiated the case, said in a statement: "I was 12 when we first filed our climate case in 2013. It has been a long road since then and nothing has changed. The slow pace of my government's actions concerns me and my generation."

"I believe that this judgment of the Dutch Supreme Court will set the action we so urgently need into motion and will force governments into taking their responsibility," he added.

What the ruling says

The High Court said its judgment is based on clear scientific evidence, endorsed by both Urgenda and the government, that "there is a real threat of dangerous climate change in the coming decades."

It also stated that as a member of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the Dutch state was duty-bound to "protect the right to life" and "take appropriate measures if it is aware of a real threat to the life or well-being of its citizens".

It then cited the report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which stated that developed countries ought to reduce their emissions by 25% to 40% from 1990 levels by the end of 2020 to help in the fight to keep the rise in global temperatures to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

'Act now or see you in court'

The Netherlands had originally tabled to reach a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emission by the end of 2020 but changed the policy in 2011.

Emissions were only 15% lower than 1990 levels in 2018.

Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International said Urgenda had scored "an enormous victory for climate protection".

"This puts all laggard governments on notice: act now or see you in court," she also wrote on Twitter.

Urgenda's legal action against a government over climate targets was the first of its kind by inspired similar lawsuits around the world including in Belgium, France, Ireland, Germany, New Zealand, the UK, Switzerland, Norway and against the European Union.

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