Climate Case Explained

To facilitate better understanding of the case, the Urgenda Foundation has made documents relevant to the Climate Case available in English. Here you can find translations of legal documents, including the summons, statement of reply, pleadings, judgment and a summary.

SUMMARY

In a letter to Urgenda, the Dutch government acknowledged that its actions are insufficient to prevent dangerous climate change. Urgenda concluded that The Netherlands is knowingly exposing its own citizens to danger. 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.

TIMELINE

  • 12 November 2012 – Letter to the government
  • 20 November 2013 – Summons
  • 2 April 2014 – Dutch State answers the summons of Urgenda, submits defense to the court
  • 10 September 2014 – Urgenda submits its statement of reply to the Dutch State
  • 19 January 2015 – Dutch State submits the rejoinder to the reply of Urgenda
  • 14 April 2015 – Hearing before the District Court of The Hague
  • 24 June 2015 – Verdict of the District Court of The Hague
  • 1 September 2015 – Dutch State announces decision to appeal the verdict
  • 9 April 2016 – Dutch State submits grounds for appeal
  • 28 May 2018 – Appeal Hearing to take place before the Hague Court of Appeal
  • 9 October 2018 – The Hague Court decided to uphold the 2015 court decision.
  • 8 January 2019 – Dutch State submits its grounds for appeal
  • 12 April 2019 – Urgenda submits its written defence

Upcoming events

  • 24 May 2019 – Hearing to take place before the Supreme Court
  • 21 June 2019 – The Dutch State and Urgenda submit written reply
  • Advocate General will publish its opinion
  • Supreme court will publish its decision

DISTRICT COURT OF THE HAGUE

The summons marked the start of the legal proceedings at the District court in The Hague. Urgenda set out the facts on climate change and explained why emissions need to be radically reduced to avert catastrophic damage. It provided the grounds upon which it claims the Dutch state is legally obliged to take action to reduce Dutch greenhouse gas emissions. An English version of this document can be found here.

In its defence, the State acknowledged all the facts on climate change, including the potentially devastating consequences if no action is taken. The State implicitly acknowledged that it is not doing its share to avoid dangerous climate change. The State did however reject the notion that it can be legally obliged to act. In short, the State argues that there is no legal norm on the basis of which it is legally bound to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, the State argues that whether and to what extent emissions should be reduced is a political question in which the courts should not intervene.

In its statement of reply, the Urgenda Foundation strengthened the legal argumentation that was laid out in the summons and reacts to the defence of the State. After the statement of reply was filed, the State submitted one final written rebuttal before the hearing.

On 14 April 2015, oral arguments were presented at the district court in The Hague. The pleadings of Urgenda can be found here and here. The district court of The Hague issued its judgment on the 24 June 2015. The court published an English translation of the judgment.

In addition to the translated documents provided by the court, Urgenda has provided video footage of the court session in which the court presented its verdict, including English subtitles (see below).

COURT OF APPEAL OF THE HAGUE

In September 2015, despite calls from leading scientists, lawyers, citizens, companies and the 886 co-plaintiffs for it to accept the decision, the Dutch government decided to appeal the judgment. It made this decision even though it is taking steps to meet the target set by the Court. The appeal at the Hague Court of Appeal took place on 28 May 2018. The English translation of Urgenda’s response (known as its notice on appeal) can be found here.

The judgement has been delivered on 9 October 2018: the Hague Court of Appeal decided to uphold the 2015 court decision. In other words Urgenda won again. The English press release of the Court of Appeal and the English translation of the judgement is available here.

SUPREME COURT

On 8 January 2019 the State filled its grounds of appeal to the Supreme Court. The grounds of appeal can be downloaded here (in Dutch). On 12 April 2019 Urgenda filled its written defence to the Supreme Court (a translation of the defence will be made available here as soon as possible).

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 a wide range of determinations that were made by the Court of Appeal.

The case will be heard at the Supreme Court on 24 May 2019.

Click here for more information on the Dutch Climate Case including background reference materials, downloads and press coverage.