The Urgenda climate case against the Dutch Government
Together with 900 citizens the Urgenda Foundation filed the Climate Case against the Dutch Government. On 24 June 2015 Urgenda won a lawsuit against the Dutch State, forcing it to take more measures against climate change.
The Urgenda Climate Case is the first case in which regular citizens have managed to hold their government accountable for taking insufficient action to keep them safe from dangerous climate change. On June 24 2015, the District Court of The Hague ruled that the Dutch government is required to reduce its emissions by at least 25% by the end of 2020 (compared to 1990 levels). This means that the Dutch government is now, effective immediately, forced to take more effective action on climate change.
In September 2015, despite calls from top scientists, lawyers, citizens, companies and the almost 900 co-plaintiffs, the Dutch government decided to appeal the historic verdict. Urgenda is currently preparing its response. Scroll down for more information on the case, including the English translations of our legal documentation, information on other climate cases emerging around the world, videos, photos and latest developments...
29 September 2015 - Despite pressure from parliament, the Dutch government refuses to pull appeal in landmark climate caseDespite calls from top scientists, lawyers, citizens, companies and the almost 900 co-plaintiffs, the Dutch government declined to pull the appeal against the historic verdict in the Dutch climate case.
“To appeal the outcome of this case only weeks before the start of the climate summit in Paris shows that the Dutch government is still not treating this issue with the urgency it so desperately needs.” Marjan Minnesma, director of Urgenda and initiator to the climate case. “We have full confidence in the outcome of the appeal.” Read thefull press releasehere.
1 September 2015 - Dutch government to appeal in groundbreaking climate case
24 June 2015 - Urgenda wins the case for better Dutch climate policies
The Urgenda Foundation has filed a lawsuit against the Dutch Government for not taking sufficient measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause dangerous climate change. The Urgenda Climate Case is the first case in Europe in which citizens attempt to hold a state responsible for its potentially devastating inaction. It is also the first case in the world in which human rights are used as a legal basis to protect citizens against climate change.
The Climate Case was initiated in November 2012 with a letter to the government asking for action and a call for ‘crowd pleading’ in which Dutch citizens could support the case and join as co-plaintiffs. A year later on 20 November 2013, Urgenda together with 900 co-plaintiffs filed the case against the Dutch government. On 14 April 2015, the district court in The Hague heared the arguments of the parties. The verdict will be reached June 24th.
On 30 March 2015 the Oslo Principles on Global Climate Change Obligations were launced, formulated by an international group of eminent jurists, including High Court judges, law professors and advocates from countries such as Brazil, China, India, the US and the Netherlands. The Oslo principles hold that regardless of the existence of international agreements, governments already have a legal obligation to avert the harmful effects of climate change, based on existing international human rights law, environmental law and tort law.
The Oslo group endorses the arguments that Urgenda brings forward in its climate case and also provides support to initiatives in other countries to involve the courts in their efforts to contain climate change.
On April 8, Dutch daily newspaper Trouw published an extensive interview with Jaap Spier, Advocate-General to the Dutch Supreme Court, concerning the Oslo Principles and the Urgenda climate case. According to Spier, ‘Courts can force countries to adopt effective climate policies. Court cases are perhaps the only way to break through the political apathy about climate change.’
From the article: Does a judge need to be an activist in order to make a statement about climate change? “No”, says Spier, “it is just a matter of applying existing law, although undoubtedly not all judges will be open to this. Judges with the courage to give a ruling on this will one day be applauded, whereas those who don’t will eventually be tarred and feathered.”
Following the Dutch example, a group of well-known Belgians started legal proceedings against their government. For more information on that case, go to: www.klimaatzaak.be/en
The urgency of taking action
The recent reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have once again confirmed that urgent action is required to avert a dangerous warming of our planet. Governments including the Dutch state are taking small steps, but these continue to fall far short of what is necessary. If emissions are not drastically reduced before 2020, the second half of the 21st century will be one of danger, extreme weather events, quickly diminishing ice caps, and shortage of water and food, which in turn can cause social unrest and violence. All this can be prevented if the right actions are taken.
The legal case against the Dutch State
In a letter to Urgenda the Dutch government acknowledged that its actions are insufficient to prevent dangerous climate change. Urgenda concludes that The Netherlands is therefore knowingly exposing its own citizens to dangerous situations, in which they and their children will suffer serious hardship. In legal terms, that is a wrongful act of the State. The Dutch Supreme Court has consistently upheld the principle that the government can be held legally accountable for not taking sufficient action to prevent foreseeable harm. Urgenda argues that this is also the case with climate change. The Urgenda Foundation and its co-plaintiffs believe that preventing dangerous climate change is not only morally and politically the right thing to do, but also that it is a legal obligation that cannot be ignored.
In the climate case, Urgenda requests the court:
1.) To declare that global warming of more than 2 degrees Celsius will lead to a violation of fundamental human rights worldwide.
2) To declare that the Dutch State is acting unlawfully by not contributing its proportional share to preventing a global warming of more than 2 degrees Celsius.
3.) To order the Dutch State to drastically reduce Dutch CO2 emissions even before 2020 to the level that has been determined by scientists to be in line with less than 2 degrees Celsius of global warming, that is, to reduce Dutch emissions by 40% by 2020 below 1990 levels.
The idea for a Dutch climate case came from the book Revolution Justified of the Dutch lawyer Roger Cox, who is also one of the lawyers representing Urgenda. His call to involve the judiciary in averting the climate crisis was published in the Guardian on 14 November 2012. In March 2014 Roger Cox gave a presentation on the climate case at a TEDx conference: it is available here. In May 2014 Roger Cox gave a lecture at the legal faculty of the University of Oslo, Norway: it is available here.
What happened outside of the courtroom
Roger Cox making the case for states liability for climate change