Court orders Dutch government to increase national GHG emission reduction target

On Wednesday (June 24), in a ground-breaking ruling, the Court of The Hague determined that the Dutch government needs to raise its national emission reduction targets considerably. The court reportedly agreed that the country is endangering its citizens by not tacking serious climate action.

The state holds the responsibility of effectively controlling carbon emission levels, stated the court, but current efforts are not in line with the level of carbon cuts developed countries should aim for to contrast climate change. Based on the current policy set, in 2020 the reduction in Dutch carbon emissions will be at most 17 percent compared to 1990 levels. The court ordered that this number be raised to at least 25 percent.

“The costs of the measures ordered by the court are not unacceptably high. Therefore, the State should not hide behind the argument that the solution to the global climate problem does not depend solely on Dutch efforts”, reads the ruling.

The suit was brought to court by the Urgenda Foundation, a citizens’ platform that represented 886 individuals. The decision sets an important legal precedent that is likely to encourage other legal actions across Europe.

The court added that this decision does not aim to affect policymaking activity. This is the reason why it ordered Netherlands to comply with a 25 percent emission reduction target, which is the lower limit of what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) deemed necessary for developed nations to create a 50 percent chance of avoiding a rise in global temperatures of more than two degrees.

Under the EU Effort Sharing Decision, Netherlands agreed to cut its non-ETS emissions by 16 percent by 2020 compared to 2005 levels. In complementarity with the 21 percent reduction of emissions covered by the EU-ETS, this should lead to an overall reduction of 20 percent of total EU emissions by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. Last year the EU also set a 40 percent emission reduction target by 2030 compared to 1990, trying to induce other nations to make similar commitments.

The Guardian reports that the government has not yet decided whether, pursuant to Dutch legislation, it will appeal the court’s ruling.


(Image: Federal Court of The Hague after the verdict, June 2015. Photo credit: Urgenda/Chantal Bekker)