Support Our Work

Dutch Court Issues Landmark Ruling to Curb Emissions

By Anthony Deutsch, Reuters

A district court ordered the Dutch government on Wednesday to cut greenhouse gas emissions faster than currently planned in a rare use of the legal system to curb global warming.

A judge in The Hague said the state must "ensure that the Dutch emissions in the year 2020 will be at least 25 percent lower than those in 1990" as the Netherlands' fair share to avert more heat waves, floods and rising sea levels.

The Hague in the Netherlands.
Credit: Josef Stuefer/flickr

Based on current government policy, the Netherlands will achieve a reduction of 17 percent at most in 2020, which is below a norm of 25-40 percent for developed countries, a summary of the ruling said.

The decision was a victory for environmental group Urgenda Foundation, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of nearly 900 Dutch citizens.

"The parties agree that the severity and scope of the climate problem make it necessary to take measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," the summary said.

Some saw the ruling as a landmark, if it ends up being binding. "This could be the first judicial warning shot to governments around the world," said Bill Hare, of independent research group Climate Analytics.

"This historic ruling will have far reaching consequences in the Netherlands, Europe and the rest of the world," said Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, a Dutch member of the European Parliament in the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Almost 200 nations will try to agree a U.N. deal to slow climate change at a summit in Paris in December.

Few rich countries are on track to make such deep cuts as demanded by the court, which were based on scenarios by the U.N. panel of climate scientists in 2007 for limiting rising temperatures.

The European Union is targeting reductions of at least 20 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels, for instance, while the United States is aiming for about a four percent cut.

Analysts at Thomson Reuters Point Carbon said the Dutch court decision is unlikely to have an impact on prices in Europe's Emission Trading System (ETS).

"The Netherlands is a relatively small emitter," said analyst Emil Dimantchev. He also said "the court case will likely go through a long legal procedure that could last years".

The EU ETS is the bloc's flagship measure to cut emissions by forcing more than 11,000 power plants, factories and airlines to surrender a carbon allowance for every tonne (1.1023 ton) they emit.

Benchmark carbon prices traded at 7.53 euros at 1130 GMT (7.30 a.m. ET), up 0.01 euro from Tuesday's close.

Reporting by Anthony Deutsch, additional reporting by Susanna Twidale in London and Alister Doyle in Oslo; Editing by Susan Fenton and William Hardy