International Climate Change

Posted on: 24 June 2015

A landmark in climate litigation

Posted by: Frances Lawson

As legal precedents go, this could be one of the most significant of our time. A Dutch court has just compelled the country’s government to increase its carbon emissions reductions over the next five years.

Basing its judgment on scientific consensus as regards climate change, the Dutch court in the Hague considered that current government policies would only deliver an emissions reduction of 17% by 2020, relative to 1990 levels – the crucial benchmark for the developed world. The court held that the scientific consensus on climate change and the international agreements in place require reductions of between 25% and 40% by 2020 to be made by developed nations in order to limit warming to the crucial level of 2 degrees Celsius. The Dutch Government therefore needed to do more to “counter the imminent danger posed by climate change, given its environmental obligations”. The Dutch Government is now obliged to meet a 25% reduction target over the next five years.

This was a case of “people power”, the litigation having been brought by a class action of 900 Dutch citizens asserting that anything above 2 degrees of warming would constitute a “violation of human rights”. With President Francois Hollande set to launch a “Declaration of Human Rights and Climate Change” as part of the French Presidency of the COP21, the human rights aspect to climate change is likely to feature with increasing prominence over the coming years … not least as a vehicle for bringing climate actions before the courts.

The judgment in English can be found here

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