The Supreme Court of the Netherlands ruled on Friday that the Dutch government must take urgent action on climate change in order to protect its citizens.
In 2013, Dutch environmental group Urgenda became the first group in the world to test whether citizens could use laws concerning human rights in order to force governments to slash greenhouse gas emissions. On Friday, the highest court in the Netherlands ruled that International Human Rights law does indeed oblige the Netherlands to reduce emissions “because of the risk of a dangerous climate change that can also seriously affect the residents of the Netherlands in their right to life and well-being.”
The ruling could prove to be important, not just in the Netherlands, but also for how other countries tackle the climate emergency. The court ruling was partially based on the European Convention on Human Rights, and so citizens of other countries could also hope to attempt to succeed if they launched similar cases against their own governments.
The Netherlands has been reducing its emissions over recent years and has plans for a 49% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. However, it is likely to miss a target of having emissions to at least 25% of 1990 levels by the end of next year unless quick actions are taken. At the end of 2018, emissions were down only 15% on 1990 levels.
A spokesperson for Urgenda said following the ruling;
“Today, at a moment when people around the world are in need of real hope that governments will act with urgency to address the climate crisis, the Dutch Supreme Court has delivered a groundbreaking decision that confirms that individual governments must do their fair share to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”