Dutch government ordered to cut greenhouse gas emissions

Winning landmark case, environmental group argued that the state must protect citizens from effects of climate change

A Dutch court has ordered the government to cut the country's greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25 percent by 2020 in a groundbreaking climate case that activists hope will set a worldwide precedent.

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.”

The ruling was a victory for the Urgenda Foundation, an environmental group that filed the lawsuit on behalf of nearly 900 Dutch people. They said that the government has a duty to protect its citizens against looming dangers, including the effects of climate change on this low-lying country, which is threatened by rising sea levels. 

Climate activists in the courtroom cheered as the presiding judge read the ruling. 

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

Marjan Minnesma, Urgenda Foundation's director, said she hoped the ruling would spur similar court cases by environmental activists against governments around the world to force them to lower emissions.

“This is what you always hope for, but everyone said: This is never going to happen,” she told Dutch national broadcaster NOS.

Law experts have called the ruling a “unique case,” according to the broadcaster.

“Normally you'd hope that politicians solve the problem,” Minnesma told NOS in April. “But if things get so bad that the interests of civilians are harmed, you can take the case to court.”

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

Al Jazeera and wire services

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