21 december 2019

[4C Note: scroll down for a n English language summary of the Supreme Court verdict on the Dutch legal website De Rechtspraak]

Dutch Supreme Court upholds tougher emissions cuts

By Energy Reporters | 21.12.2019

The highest Dutch court has upheld a ruling requiring the authorities to cut emissions by at least 25 per cent of 1990 levels by the end of 2020.

The case was brought in the Netherlands in 2013 by Urgenda, a Dutch non-profit climate and sustainability organisation, in a bid to force the government to beyond European Union targets.

According to the Supreme Court, nations have direct obligations under articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, covering the right to private and family life.

It is more than four years since a court in The Hague ordered the emissions reductions in a case brought by Urgenda that sparked similar legal challenges in other countries, from Pakistan to New Zealand.

Urgenda’s case has also encouraged campaigners to take on corporations. In April NGOs led by Friends of the Earth Netherlands began the process of suing Royal Dutch Shell, arguing that it threatens international climate targets and human rights.

In the Urgenda case, the Dutch authorities appealed against the original 2015 verdict, saying courts should not have the authority to force government action. The first appeal failed in October 2018 but the government appealed again to the Supreme Court.

But the government looks unlikely to reach the targets.

By the end of last year, emissions had fallen by 15 per cent on 1990 levels.

Activists say levels could fall by 23 per cent by the end of next year but believe the cuts could be as low as 19 per cent.

David Boyd, the UN special environmental rapporteur, said it was “the most important climate change court decision in the world so far, confirming that human rights are jeopardised by the climate emergency and that wealthy nations are legally obligated to achieve rapid and substantial emission reductions”.

The Dutch government presented its climate accord in late June with plans for a 49 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and phasing out coal-fired power generation starting from next year.

Cuts in methane, nitrous oxide and other gases have been achieved while carbon dioxide emissions have changed little since 1990.

In an attempt to cut nitrogen oxide pollution, the authorities last month cut the daytime speed limit to 100kmh.

Greenpeace said the government would now have to take action to reduce emissions.

“The closure of coal-fired power stations and reduction of animal factory farming are obvious measures, which the government has been postponing for years,” Oulahsen told the media. ”Measures now will have to be drastic and the government owes that entirely to itself, because this verdict has not been taken seriously by Prime Minister [Mark] Rutte for four years.”


Dutch State to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by the end of 2020

Hoge Raad, 20 december 2019

The court order for the Dutch State to reduce Dutch greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by the end of 2020 remains in force. That is what the Supreme Court ruled today.

A major cause of rapid global warming is the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This is a source of great danger to life on earth. Both the Urgenda Foundation and the Dutch State are of the opinion that greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced quickly, and ultimately be discontinued almost completely, but they disagree on the speed at which this is supposed to happen. The Dutch State has a EU target for 2020 of a 20% reduction compared to 1990 levels. Urgenda, on the other hand, believes that, given the serious risks of climate change, the Dutch State’s target is not sufficient. Urgenda demands a reduction in Dutch emissions by at least 25% in 2020 compared to 1990 levels.

The The Hague District Court agreed with Urgenda. It ordered the Dutch State in 2015 to reduce Dutch greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by the end of 2020. This order was confirmed by the The Hague Court of Appeal in 2018. Today, the Supreme Court rejected the Dutch State’s cassation appeal against this decision.

The Supreme Court based its judgment on the UN Climate Convention and on the Dutch State’s legal duties to protect the life and well-being of citizens in the Netherlands, which obligations are laid down in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (the ECHR).

There is a large degree of consensus in the scientific and international community on the urgent need for developed countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% by the end of 2020. The Dutch State has not explained why a lower reduction would be justified and could still lead, on time, to the final target accepted by the Dutch State.

The Dutch State has argued that it is up to politicians to decide on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Supreme Court, however, the Dutch Constitution requires the Dutch courts to apply the provisions of the ECHR. This role of the courts to offer legal protection is an essential element of a democracy under the rule of law.. The courts are responsible for guarding the limits of the law. That is what the Court of Appeal has done in this case, according to the Supreme Court.

Therefore, the Supreme Court ruled that the Court of Appeal was allowed and could decide that the Dutch State is obliged to achieve the 25% reduction by the end of 2020, on account of the risk of dangerous climate change that could also have a serious impact on the rights to life and well-being ofresidents of the Netherlands

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