Judges ordered a 25% carbon emissions cut by 2020 in the first successful lawsuit against a government’s climate policy
Mon 28 May 2018
But Mark Rutte’s government on Monday put the ball back in the plaintiffs’ court, arguing that judges in The Hague had overstepped their authority and were in danger of outflanking public opinion.
Climate minister Eric Wiebes told Dutch media: “We also believe that renewable energy should be increased and CO2 emissions should be reduced, so this is really about something else: it’s about how the judge has intervened in something that’s [called] democracy, and actually democracy has been sidelined.”
But the plans have not yet been implemented and Urgenda, the citizens’ alliance that brought the original case, said Dutch greenhouse gas emissions were currently only 13% below 1990 levels while CO2 output was largely unchanged.
Lawyers representing the group’s 886 Dutch plaintiffs told the court: “The Netherlands is 34th in the world when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. But when it comes to per capita emissions the Netherlands ranks ninth – the highest of any EU country. A Dutch person emits twice as much as the global average and 1.5 times more than the average EU citizen.
“If we are not to reduce our emissions as quickly as possible, who is?”
With Urgenda’s legal battle becoming a litmus test for the effectiveness of climate litigation, the judges’ verdict – expected on 9 October – will be closely watched.
Christiana Figueres, the former head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said: “Urgenda’s bold action against the government of the Netherlands created an important new incentive for all governments to act expeditiously.
“Governments must act boldly and urgently. The Urgenda climate case is evidence that this is not just what should be done, it’s what must be done.”
The World Meteorological Organization reported that last month was the third warmest April on record after 2016 and 2017, while Bering Sea ice cover fell to lowest level ever and a new CO2 ppm (parts per million) record was set.
In a sign of increased urgency in Brussels, the EU’s climate commissioner, Miguel Arias Cañete, called this month for member states “to accelerate our efforts considerably and raise our ambition”.