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...

Latest news

  • 29 September 2015 - Despite pressure from parliament, the Dutch government refuses to pull appeal in landmark climate case
    Despite 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 the full press release here.
    • 1 September 2015 - Dutch government to appeal in groundbreaking climate case

      The Hague, 1 September 2015 - The Dutch government today announced its intention to appeal against the verdict of the district court in The Hague in the Dutch Climate Case last June.

      We have full confidence in the outcome of the appeal” Marjan Minnesma, director of Urgenda reacted. In its letter to parliament the government also announced it will start taking measures to reach the target that was ordered by to court, pending the appeal. In its verdict the District court of The Hague ordered the Dutch government to reduce its emissions by a minimum of 25% by 2020 compared to 1990. The Netherlands are currently on a path towards 17% in 2020.

      Marjan Minnesma :“The government knows 25% is not nearly enough if you consider the enormity of the dangers that climate change poses to us. Much more is needed, so we hope that politicians in the Netherlands will take their responsibility and make a true effort to speed up the transition towards a 100% sustainable economy. We have been waiting for political leadership on this topic for a very long time.

      In its letter announcing the appeal the government mentions a number of legal questions as the reason for appealing the judgement.

      Marjan Minnesma: “The Dutch government has the opportunity to put these legal questions directly to the Supreme Court instead of first going through the Court of Appeal. That would save a lot of time and money. If it is legal clarity that de government wants, going straight to the Supreme Court is the fastest way to get there

      The government officially published its announcement (Dutch) here. Dutch parliament will be hearing experts and debating the case later this month before the government takes a final decision on the appeal. The deadline for appealing is 24 September 2015.

      Statement Dutch government in English and in Dutch.

      • 24 June 2015 - Urgenda wins the case for better Dutch climate policies

        The Hague, 24 June 2015 - Urgenda and nine hundred co-plaintiffs were victorious in the climate case today, forcing the Dutch government to adopt more stringent climate policies. The district court of The Hague has granted the plaintiffs claims, and the government is now required to take more effective climate action to reduce the Netherlands considerable share in global emissions. This is the first time that a judge has legally required a State to take precautions against climate change. This verdict will provide support to all the other climate cases around the world.

        "All the plaintiffs are overjoyed by the result. This makes it crystal clear that climate change is a huge problem that needs to be dealt with much more effectively, and that states can no longer afford inaction. States are meant to protect their citizens, and if politicians will not do this of their own accord, then the courts are there to help," says Urgenda director Marjan Minnesma, who in 2013 initiated this case against the Dutch State with a team of lawyers and nine hundred co-plaintiffs. "It's all up to the State now. Luckily, sustainable solutions are ripe for the picking."

        Read the full press release here
        Read the press relase of the court here
        Read the transcript of the court session at which the Verdict was brought here


Report of what happened during hearing in the Dutch Climate Case


credit Urgenda / Chantal Bekker


  • Legal documents

    All our legal documents translated in English.
  • Media coverage

    The Dutch climate case was worldwide breaking news covered by The Guardian, The New York Times, Al Jazeera, ABC Australia, CBC Canada, Le Monde, BBC, VRT, The Economist.....
  • International cases

    A simular case has started in Belgium and an other climate case is prepared in Norway. Read more about the Oslo Princliples

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.”

An informal translation of the interview can be downloaded here. The Guardian published this piece on the Oslo principles by two legal experts.

Following the Dutch example, a group of well-known Belgians started legal proceedings against their government. For more information on that case, go to:

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 letter to the Dutch government of November 2012 is available here
  • A translation of the summons is available here
  • The translation of the statement of reply is available here.
  • A legal summary, published in the Utrecht Journal of International and European Law is available here

Revolution justified

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


Photo's & quotes

mede-eisersMede-eisersmede-eiserkinderemede-eiserMarjan Minnesmamede-eisers

courtmede-eisersmede-eisersSpeechMarjan MinnesmaMarjan MinnesmaDutch TVmede-eiserJoos Ockelsmede-eisersMaurits Groen Wakawakalawyermede-eisercourtcourtMarjan MinnesmacourtcourtBernice Notemboom - professional adventurer

Borgchild des Bouvrie - Grandparents climate campaign

Joos Ockels

Gregor Slato