Dutch government to appeal landmark climate ruling, again

Mark Rutte’s administration asks Supreme Court to review the Urgenda case, which requires the Netherlands to make deeper emissions cuts by 2020

(Photo: Flickr/James Cridland)


The Dutch government is taking its fight against a landmark climate change verdict to the Supreme Court.

Under the initial ruling, which was upheld by an appeals court last month, the Netherlands must cut emissions 25% from 1990 levels by 2020. In 2017, emissions were down just 13%, leaving a significant gap to bridge.

In a statement on Friday, the government said it was committed to meeting the tougher goal, but would challenge the decision on principle. By forcing the state to make deeper emissions cuts, the judgment limited executive discretion on policy. “This could have significant consequences for governments’ freedom to make climate policy and in other areas,” it argued.

Urgenda, the campaign group behind the lawsuit, criticised the decision to appeal. “We would much rather have worked side by side with our government to reduce emissions, rather than have to fight them in court again,” said director Marjan Minnesma.

Campaigners are “not convinced” by the rationale behind the appeal, she added, noting the government can decide how to meet the target.

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Mark Rutte’s administration has already promised to shut the country’s five coal power plants by 2030 and advocated stronger EU-wide action.

With just over a year to deadline, though, it may need to do more. The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency will update its emissions forecast early next year, based on existing policies. If it shows extra measures are needed to meet the 2020 goal, the government said it would “act accordingly”. Last-ditch options include speeding up the coal phaseout and slowing down motorway traffic.

In 2015, district judges accepted Urgenda’s argument that 25% was the minimum emissions cut compatible with holding global warming to 2C. Later that year, the Paris Agreement confirmed 2C as the upper acceptable limit of temperature rise, calling for efforts to stick to 1.5C.

Minnesma said: “Delaying action will inevitably lead to us missing the temperature targets in the Paris Agreement and will have catastrophic consequences for all of us.”

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