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In a case taken by environmental NGO Urgenda, the court said: ‘Given the high risk of hazardous climate change, the state has a serious duty of care to take measures to prevent it.’ Urgenda, which began its legal action in 2013, said the outcome would be a boost to similar cases that are either underway or being prepared in Belgium and Norway.
Crucial to the court’s ruling was the Dutch government’s stated aim of reducing its emissions by up to 17% as part of an overall EU reduction target of 20%. It said the Netherlands failed to meet the 25-40% range that the latest scientific evidence deemed to be necessary to keep global warming below 2°C. Holland had taken on this responsibility when it signed the Kyoto Protocol.
But the court decided not to impose a higher target, saying it would interfere with the discretionary power of the state. Instead, the 25% target is ‘the absolute minimum’ for Holland to do its fair share to avert dangerous climate change.
Among the key findings, which NGOs will take careful note of, is the court’s determination that it was not out of bounds – as it holds the state to targets that it accepted. Also, the NGO was deemed a relevant party because it represents Dutch citizens and had signed up 900 people as plaintiffs.
The state’s obligation to take care of its citizens was also cited, which means it should do everything to avoid catastrophic global warming. Arguments that worldwide action was needed were insufficient to let the Dutch state off as any CO2-reduction anywhere will help reduce global warming.
On the argument of costs, the court said delaying climate action would only increase costs. It also said the state cannot cite competitive disadvantage caused by climate action, because other countries are easily achieving higher targets and not losing any businesses as a result.
No decision has yet been taken on whether the Dutch government will appeal the ruling.