Netherlands enters appeal against climate ruling

Government will challenge facts of groundbreaking verdict that demanded steeper emissions cuts, after parliamentary debate

The climate case appeal was debated in parliament (Wikimedia Commons/Markus Bernet)

The climate case appeal was debated in parliament (Wikimedia Commons/Markus Bernet)

By Megan Darby

The Dutch government has appealed against a court order to target deeper greenhouse gas emission cuts.

In July, district judges ruled the Netherlands must reduce emissions at least 25% from 1990 levels by 2020. Existing policies are set to yield 17%.

It was a groundbreaking victory for campaign group Urgenda, which brought the case backed by almost 900 citizens.

But after a parliamentary debate last week, the government confirmed plans to challenge the verdict in the Appeals Court.

Environment minister Wilma Mansveld questioned the judge’s interpretation of the state’s “duty of care” towards citizens – a crucial factor in the case.

That could have implications for other policy areas, she said.

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The decision comes two months ahead of a UN summit in Paris, where 195 countries are set to strike a global climate deal.

Marjan Minnesma, director of Urgenda, said it showed the Netherlands was “still not treating this issue with the urgency it so desperately needs”.

Members of a number of opposition parties proposed the government fast-track the matter to the Supreme Court. Both sides have committed to fight all the way and this would save resources, they argued.

That would mean accepting the facts of the case, however, which the government was not prepared to do.

The whole process could take 2-3 years, with a verdict on the initial appeal not expected before the end of 2016.

Minnesma said she had “full confidence” in the outcome.

Meanwhile, the government has pledged to start working towards a 25% target.

A similar case is under way in Belgium and campaigners are preparing lawsuits in Norway, France, Switzerland and Australia, lawyer Dennis van Berkel told Climate Home.

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