Dutch court or­ders state to slash green­house emis­sions


A Dutch court on Wed­nes­day or­dered the state to slash green­house gas emis­sions na­tion­wide by at least 25 per­cent by 2020, in a case that could serve as a blue­print for ac­tivists around the world.

Cli­mate ex­perts called the rul­ing a “mile­stone,” say­ing it would en­cour­age con­cerned cit­i­zens in other coun­tries to take their own gov­ern­ments to court to force them to cut the gases blamed for global warm­ing.

“The court or­ders the State to re­duce the over­all vol­ume of green- house gas emis­sions in such a way that they are at least 25 per­cent less in 2020 com­pared to 1990,” judge Hans Hofhuis said as the court­room erupted in cheers and ap­plause.

The rul­ing by The Hague’s Dis­trict Court came af­ter al­most 900 Dutch cit­i­zens took their gov­ern­ment to court in April in a bid to force a re­duc­tion of green­house gas emis­sions to tackle cli­mate change.

En­vi­ron­men­tal rights group Ur­genda, which brought the case, had said it wanted The Hague to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions by 40 per­cent over 1990 lev­els by 2020.

Cur­rent Dutch pol­icy is to re­duce emis­sions by 17 per­cent by 2020, less than the 25-40 per­cent in­ter­na­tional norm for in­dus­tri­al­ized na­tions, the court said.

State’s Re­spon­si­bil­ity

“The par­ties agree that the sever­ity and mag­ni­tude of cli­mate change make it nec­es­sary to take mea­sures to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions,” the court said in its rul­ing.

Ef­fec­tive con­trol of Dutch emis­sions is “one of the State’s tasks,” it said, adding that the cost of the re­duc­tions would not be “un­ac­cept­ably high.”

“This is a world first for us,” Ur­genda head Marjan Min­nesma told AFP at the court, ex­press­ing hopes that the prece­dent set by the Nether­lands would be “fol­lowed by many across the world.”

“Mil­lions of peo­ple who al­ready ex­pe­ri­ence cli­mate change per­son­ally hope that we, the peo­ple re­spon­si­ble for the emis­sions and who have the means, will still make a timely in­ter­ven­tion,” Min­nesma said in a state­ment.

“These peo­ple, with this rul­ing in hand, can now bring their own cases,” she said.

Am­s­ter­dam-based Ur­genda said the case was the first in Europe in which cit­i­zens at­tempted to hold the state re­spon­si­ble for its po­ten­tially dev­as­tat­ing in­ac­tion on cli­mate change, and the first in the world in which hu­man rights were used as a le­gal ba­sis to pro­tect cit­i­zens against its ef­fects.

“This judg­ment not only im­pacts me, but also my chil­dren and my grand­chil­dren,” Ur­genda worker Sharon Ceha, 54, told AFP at the court.

A spokesman for the Dutch en­vi­ron­ment min­istry said he was ex­am­in­ing the rul­ing, which can be ap­pealed.

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