Dutch Government Ordered to Cut Carbon Emissions in Landmark Ruling

A court in the Hague has declared the Dutch government’s climate policy illegal and ordered it to cut its emissions by at least 25 percent within five years, in a landmark ruling.


To cheers from climate campaigners in the court, three judges ruled that government plans to cut emissions by just 14-17 percent compared to 1990 levels by 2020 were illegal.

In the first climate change liability suit brought under human rights and tort law, Judge Hans Hofhuis said that the threat posed by global warming was severe and acknowledged by the Dutch government in international treaties.

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“The state should not hide behind the argument that the solution to the global climate problem does not depend solely on Dutch efforts,” the judges’ ruling said. “Any reduction of emissions contributes to the prevention of dangerous climate change and as a developed country the Netherlands should take the lead in this.”

Some 886 plaintiffs organized by the Urgenda movement had accused the Dutch government of negligence for “knowingly contributing” to a breach of the 2C maximum target for global warming. The first hearing was held in April.

Professor Pier Vellinga, Urgenda’s chairman and the originator of the 2C target in 1989 said that the ruling was a breakthrough and would have a massive impact on similar cases being heard in countries such as Belgium.

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“This ruling is of enormous significance, and beyond our expectations,” he told the Guardian. “We had thought the legal system would not want to interfere in the political debate. But the scientific case is so strong, and the dangers so high that the court has ruled that the state is failing to adequately protect its citizens from the effects of climate change.”

The judges ordered the Dutch government to pay all of Urgenda’s costs.

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