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The Urgenda campaign

The Urgenda campaign celebrated a Dutch appeals court ruling on Tuesday that the government must do more to cut greenhouse gas emissions. (Photo: @urgenda/Twitter)

'One for the History Books!': Dutch Court Puts World on Notice by Ordering Government to Move Faster on Emission Cuts

The government of the Netherlands, said the court, "has done too little to prevent the dangers of climate change and is doing too little to catch up."

Jessica Corbett

Citing the urgent warnings issued by the global scientific community about the pending climate catastrophe while also putting governments across the world "on notice," a Dutch appeals court on Tuesday upheld a landmark legal ruling that requires the Netherlands government to be significantly more aggressive in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

"The court of appeal's decision puts all governments on notice. They must act now, or they will be held to account."
—Marjan Minnesma, Urgenda campaign

With a ruling that "was greeted with whoops and cheers in the courtroom," the Guardian reports that the court called for emissions "reductions of at least 25 percent by 2020—measured against 1990 levels—higher than the 17 percent drop planned by Mark Rutte's liberal administration."

"The government has done too little to prevent the dangers of climate change and is doing too little to catch up," the court said Tuesday, according to the German news website Deutsche Welle.

"There is a clear chance that the reduction will fall far short of the 25 percent goal, which is unacceptable," the ruling continued. "The state is acting unlawfully and in violation of the duty of care."

Responding to the ruling in a statement to the Guardian, Marjan Minnesma, director of the Urgenda campaign, which brought the case, referenced the report released Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the U.N.'s leading body for climate science.

"The special report of the IPCC emphasizes that we need to reduce emissions with much greater urgency. The Dutch government knows that as a low-lying country, we are on the front line of climate change. Our own government agencies recently concluded that in the worst case scenario sea levels might rise by 2.5 to 3 meters (8.2 to 9.8 feet) by the end of the century,"  she said. "The court of appeal's decision puts all governments on notice. They must act now, or they will be held to account."

"Who's next? #Shell should be quaking in their boots."
—Friends of the Earth Europe

Dennis van Berkel, the legal counsel for Urgenda, added that the move "has consequences for all governments. They should look at this closely and realize that they are not acting in the interests of their own people. By delaying [climate] actions and not increasing them to the highest possible level—they are violating the rights of their people."

Climate campaigners with Friends of the Earth Europe and Milieudefensie, the group's Dutch branch, celebrated the decision as "one for the history books!"

Environmental groups are now setting their sights on Royal Dutch Shell, the oil and gas giant whose in-house scientists warned the company in the 1980s that fossil fuels threaten the planet, according to reporting by a Dutch journalist published earlier this year.

Milieudefensie has filed suit against Shell to force the multinational company to bring its policies into compliance with the goals of the Paris agreement. Dutch citizens can join the case as co-plaintiffs. Others can support the case by signing a petition circulated by Friends of the Earth International.

Congratulating Urgenda—the group that brought the emissions case—on Twitter, Greenpeace concluded, "Your victory should inspire people around the world to hold their governments legally accountable for climate change."


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