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Urgenda wins the case for better Dutch climate policies

National and international celebrations for climate breakthrough

An overwhelmed Urgenda lawyer Cox after winning the historic Dutch climate case (Urgenda / Chantal Bekker)An overwhelmed Urgenda lawyer Cox after winning the historic Dutch climate case (Urgenda / Chantal Bekker)

Urgenda and nine hundred co-plaintiffs were victorious in the climate case today, forcing the Dutch government to adopt more stringent climate policies. The district court of The Hague has granted the plaintiffs’ claims, and the government is now required to take more effective climate action to reduce the Netherlands’ considerable share in global emissions. This is the first time that a judge has legally required a State to take precautions against climate change. This verdict will provide support to all the other climate cases around the world.

“All the plaintiffs are overjoyed by the result. This makes it crystal clear that climate change is a huge problem that needs to be dealt with much more effectively, and that states can no longer afford inaction. States are meant to protect their citizens, and if politicians will not do this of their own accord, then the courts are there to help,” says Marjan Minnesma, who in 2013 initiated this case against the Dutch State with a team of lawyers and nine hundred co-plaintiffs. “It’s all up to the State now. Luckily, sustainable solutions are ripe for the picking.”

Groundbreaking verdict

The State has a legal obligation to protect its citizens, and has therefore been required by the court to take the necessary precautions. The court is demanding that the Dutch government do what the government itself has already deemed necessary in order to avert dangerous climate change. The court is ordering the Netherlands to reduce CO2 emission by a minimum of 25% (compared to 1990) by 2020, while current ambitions are hovering at 16%. Climate change measures are feasible and affordable. Denmark and Germany are already on course to cut 40% of their CO2 emissions by 2020. In its defense, the State itself has even said that it still sees plenty of room to reduce emissions. The judge’s verdict is a serious breakthrough, according to Urgenda.

Internationally justified

Not just Urgenda and its co-plaintiffs have been eagerly awaiting this verdict, but so have UNFCCC negotiators, citizens in countries who have pending suits against their states (e.g. Belgium), or are currently preparing one (e.g. Norway).  “Millions of people that are already suffering the consequences of climate change are hoping that we, the people that have caused the emissions and have the means to reduce them, will intervene while there is still time”, says Minnesma. “Those people can now, with our verdict in their hands, start their own climate cases.” These lawsuits are supported by the Oslo Principles, which holds that states have the legal obligation to avert dangerous climate change. 

Dutch emissions

The Netherlands cannot solve the climate crisis by itself, but it certainly can do its fair share. Historically, The Netherlands is among the largest per capita emitters of the world. The science is crystal clear: we need to prevent the earth’s temperature from rising more than two degrees. Currently, the earth is headed for a temperature rise of 4, or even 6, degrees Celsius, which will mean an unlivable planet.

The climate case has been translated into English, and this verdict will also be made available for other citizens that want to use the law to force their states to do their part.

The full verdict will be published in English here: www.rechtspraak.nl


To read more about the Climate Case, or to watch the livestream from the courtroom, go to www.Urgenda.nl/en/climate-case
Video 1 - Urgenda climate case hearing before the district court
Video 2 - Dutch Climate Case with commentary of Dutch politicians

About Urgenda

The Dutch Urgenda Foundation aims for a fast transition towards a sustainable society, with a focus on the transition towards a circular economy using only renewable energy. It works on solutions for this transition, including for example the introduction and realization of 'energy neutral' houses and the acceleration of electric mobility. Urgenda views climate change as one of the biggest challenges of our times and looks for solutions to ensure that the earth will continue to be a safe place to live for future generations. www.Urgenda.nl/en


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