THE URGENDA CLIMATE CASE AGAINST THE DUTCH GOVERNMENT

History is written. On 20 December 2019 the Dutch Surpreme Court states that the Dutch government must reduce emissions immediately in line with its human rights obligations. A historic victory for climate justice.

Landmark decision by Dutch Supreme Court

On 20 December 2019,  the Dutch Supreme Court, the highest court in the Netherlands, upheld the previous decisions in the Urgenda Climate Case, finding that the Dutch government has obligations to urgently and significantly reduce emissions in line with its human rights obligations. A truly historic outcome!

An English translation of the judgement is available here.

The Urgenda Climate Case against the Dutch Government was the first in the world in which citizens established that their government has a legal duty to prevent dangerous climate change. On 24 June 2015, the District Court of The Hague ruled the government must cut its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% by the end of 2020 (compared to 1990 levels). The ruling required the government to immediately take more effective action on climate change.

The District Court’s decision was appealed by the State and upheld by the Court of Appeal on 9 October 2018. Following this judgment, the State appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled in favour of Urgenda on 20 December 2019. Read Urgenda’s press release here, the press release of the Supreme Court here and an explanation of the case by the press Justice to the Supreme Court here.

In a reflection of the international significance of the case, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has also published a news release about the decision in which she notes that “the decision confirms that the Government of the Netherlands and, by implication, other governments have binding legal obligations, based on international human rights law, to undertake strong reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases.”

For more information on the case click here.

The Urgenda Climate Case against the Dutch Government was the first in the world in which citizens established that their government has a legal duty to prevent dangerous climate change. On 24 June 2015, the District Court of The Hague ruled the government must cut its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% by the end of 2020 (compared to 1990 levels). The ruling required the government to immediately take more effective action on climate change.

The Climate Case, which was brought on behalf of 886 Dutch citizens, made climate change a major political and social issue in the Netherlands and transformed domestic climate change policy. It inspired climate change cases in Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Ireland, Germany, France, New Zealand, Norway, the UK, Switzerland and against the EU. For more information on climate cases around the world click here.

Following the ground-breaking judgment of the District Court on 24 June 2015, the Dutch Government decided to appeal the case in September 2015, despite calls from leading scientists, lawyers, citizens, companies and the 886 co-plaintiffs for it to accept the decision. The Government decided to appeal even though it committed to taking steps to meet the target set by the Court.

The appeal was heard at the Hague Court of Appeal on 28 May 2018. On 9 October 2018, the Hague Court of Appeal decided to uphold the 2015 court decision. In other words, Urgenda won again.

On 8 January 2019 the government filled its grounds of appeal to the Supreme Court. Urgenda filed its written defence to the Supreme Court on 12 April 2019 and a subsequent rejoinder on 21 June 2019.  English translations of those documents can be found here. The case was heard at the Supreme Court on 24 May 2019.

13 September 2019 –  The Procurator General advises the Supreme Court to uphold the judgment

On 13 September 2019 the Procurator General and Advocate General to the Supreme Court published an opinion advising the Supreme Court to uphold the judgement of the Court of Appeal.  The press release of the Supreme Court regarding the opinion can be found here and an English translation of the opinion here. And an analysis of the Advisory Opinion can be found here.

20 December 2019 – The Supreme Court upholds the judgement of the Court of Appeal

On 20 December 2019 the Supreme Court, the highest court in the country, upholds the judgement of the Court of Appeal, confirming the order that the Netherlands need to reduce its emissions by a minimum of 25% before 2020 compared to 1990 levels. An English translation of the judgement is available here.

20 December 2019 – Final judgment Supreme Court

9 October 2018 – Final judgment Supreme Court: The Supreme Court of the Netherlands in The Hague orders the Dutch government that it must urgently & significantly reduce emissions to protect human rights. A landmark decision is taken.

13 September 2019 – Supreme Court advised to uphold the Urgenda judgement

13 September 2019 – Supreme Court advised to uphold the Urgenda judgement: The office of the Procurator-General today advised the Supreme Court to uphold the judgment of the Court of Appeal. For more information click here.

24 May 2019 – Hearing before the Supreme Court

24 May 2019 – Hearing before the Supreme Court: On 24 May 2019 the Urgenda Climate Case will be heard before the Supreme Court. The hearing will commence at 9:00 am in the Korte Zaal (Korte hall), address: Korte Voorhout 8, 2511 EK, The Hague.

12 April 2019 – Urgenda submits its written defence in the appeal before the Supreme Court

12 April 2019 – Urgenda submits its written defence in the appeal before the Supreme Court: Urgenda has submitted its written defence in the appeal before the Supreme Court on 12 April 2019. It its submission Urgenda outlines the dangers of climate change and the duty of the State to reduce its emissions by 25% at a minimum before 2020. The Dutch version of the written defence is available here. A translation in English will be made available as soon as possible.

9 January 2019 – Dutch government submits its grounds of appeal

9 January 2019 – Dutch government submits its grounds of appeal: The Dutch Government has filed its ground of appeal before the Supreme Court. The grounds can be downloaded here (in Dutch). Despite its initial announcement to file the appeal because of its principled disagreement with the Court of Appeal with regards to the separation of powers, the State challenges wide range of determinations that were made by the Court of Appeal.

16 November 2018 - Dutch government fights obligations to act on climate change

16 November 2018 – Dutch government fights obligations to act on climate change: On Friday, the Dutch government announced its intention to appeal the recent judgment of the Hague Court of Appeal in Urgenda’s high-profile climate case. The Court of Appeal upheld the 2015 order of the District Court requiring the Government to reduce the Netherland’s greenhouse gas emissions. Read further here.

9 October 2018 - Urgenda wins appeal in historic climate case

9 October 2018 – Urgenda wins appeal in historic climate case: the Hague Court of Appeal upheld the groundbreaking 2015 decision of the District Court, in which it ordered the Dutch Government to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. The Court ruled that failure to do so would amount to a violation of the rights of Dutch citizens. You can read the judgment and the press release here.

9 October 2018 – Judgement in the Appeal of the State.

9 October 2018 – Judgement in the Appeal of the State. The Hague Court of Appeal is expected to deliver its judgement in the appeal launched by the State at an open hearing on 9 October 2018 at 10:00 am. The hearing will be live-streamed by the Court. For more information click here.

18 April 2017 - The Notice on Appeal from Urgenda, court date is set on May 28th 2018

18 April 2017 – The Urgenda Foundation published the Notice on Appeal: The Dutch Government and Urgenda will appear to the court on May 28th 2018. Here you can download the document: Urgenda Notice On Appeal

29 September 2015 - Despite pressure from parliament, the Dutch government refuses to pull appeal in landmark climate case

29 September 2015 – 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

1 September 2015The Dutch government announces its intention to appeal against the verdict of the district court in The Hague in the Dutch Climate Case:

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 judgment 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 judgment.

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

24 June 2015Urgenda wins the case for better Dutch climate policies: 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 judgment 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 Urgenda’s full press release here
Read the court’s press release here
Read the transcript of the court session at which the Verdict was brought here

Further reading

54 Climate Solutions

Een pakket kleine maatregelen als handreiking aan het kabinet, dat is het idee achter het 40 puntenplan. Met als doel het gat te dichten van CO2-uitstoot in 2020.

Global Climate Litigation

Since the Dutch case, climate change cases have been filed all over the world, demonstrating the power of holding governments accountable in court. Read more about recently filed climate cases here.

Climate Case Explained

Want to learn more about the Urgenda Climate Case? Find more detail, including English translations of relevant legal documents, here.

VIDEOS

There was enormous support from the public for the court case. Hundreds of people came to The Hague to listen to the hearing and many more watched via livestream. When the judges read aloud the verdict, the audience erupted in joy and more than a few tears were shed. We managed to catch some of this elation in the video below, and have also provided English subtitles for the full reading of the 2018 judgment.

In addition, you can see the full version of the judge reading out the judgement below (in Dutch with English subtitles).

The day of the hearing, 14 April 2015, was also an exciting day. The video below gives a short overview of the arguments presented in court and the widespread (international) media coverage. In addition, while everyone else was at the court house, a ten year old reporter went to hear what members of parlement had to say about it.

PHOTOS

credit Urgenda / Chantal Bekker