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Youth protest during 7th Brussels youth climate march on February 21, 2019 in Brussels. (Photo: Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

'Historic': Belgium Court Says Inadequate Climate Policy a Human Rights Violation

Climate campaigners welcomed the ruling as a victory.

Andrea Germanos

Climate campaigners claimed a "historic victory" after a Brussels court on Thursday condemned Belgium for its climate policy that breaches the country's duty of care and human rights obligations.

The verdict from the Court of First Instance followed a six-year legal battle first launched by non-profit group Klimaatzaak (Climate Case) representing over 58,000 citizens.

According to the Guardian: "By not taking all 'necessary measures' to prevent the 'detrimental' effects of climate change, the court said, Belgian authorities had breached the right to life (article 2) and the right to respect for private and family life (article 8)" of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The federal government and those of three regions—the Brussels-Capital, the Flemish, and the Walloon regions—had "not behaved as generally prudent and diligent authorities, which constitutes an offense," reported Agence France-Presse.

In an explanation of the legal action on its website, Klimaatzaak references a 2019 ruling from the Supreme Court of the Netherlands:

This lawsuit is necessary because temperature records continue to be broken, because flooding is becoming more frequent… but above all because there is no real Belgian climate policy. We've seen in the Netherlands that this can be enforced via legal action: the Dutch climate organization Urgenda won a similar case that has led to an ambitious climate law.

The climate group had sought from the Brussels court specific emissions reduction targets: at least 42% compared to 1990 levels by 2025 and at least 55% compared to 1990 by 2030, with zero net emissions reached in 2050. The judge did not authorize those demands, however, citing separation of powers.

Greenpeace Belgium called the court's verdict "a clear condemnation of our country's climate policy" and urged all ministers to "get to work." 


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