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4th Dec 2021

Dutch government appeals landmark climate ruling

The Dutch government is appealing a court ruling telling it to take more action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also said it will start to implement the verdict, the environment minister wrote in a letter to parliament on Tuesday (1 September).

The government wants to hear from a higher court if the court in The Hague was not overreaching its mandate when it gave its landmark ruling last June.

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  • Marjan Minnesma: 'It's another signal that we should take climate change seriously, and that we should act' (Photo: Sebastiaan ter Burg)

The court based its verdict on the overwhelming evidence scientists have provided on the need to reduce carbon emissions, as well as international treaties such as the Kyoto Protocol, to argue that the Dutch government is not carrying out its “duty to care” for the Dutch population.

It said that the 17-percent reduction of planet-warming emissions by 2020, which is expected under current government policy, was not enough, and that the government should add measures to make sure that emissions are reduced by 25 percent, compared to 1990 levels.

The decision to both appeal and start carrying out new measures to reach 25 percent are a result of typical Dutch coalition compromise.

The current coalition, led by prime minister Mark Rutte, consists of the centre-left Labour party and Rutte's centre-right Liberals. The Liberals had wanted the government to appeal, Labour favours a more ambitious climate policy. Both parties have already said they support the compromise.

Activist Marjan Minnesma, who led the court case against the Dutch state, told this website the government is “giving two signals”, and that she is still waiting to see what the government will do to further fight climate change.

The environment minister's letter said it will propose additional measures before 30 June 2016.

“We received thousands of reactions from all over the world of people who had hope again, and of people who are considering a court case themselves”, Minnesma said on Tuesday in Paris, adding that she has been speaking with lawyers in England, Switzerland, Norway, and Ireland.

A similar court case against the Belgian government was already underway before the Dutch case was concluded.

Minnesma has also been encouraging people to ask the Dutch government not to appeal the historic ruling.

She is confident the court's verdict will hold, and that it has not overreached its mandate.

“I don't think you would be able to go to court for any other topic in this way, because … no other topic [than climate change] has such a big body of science, and 195 countries saying year after year yes we agree, it's very bad, and it gets worse every year.”

Minnesma thinks the ruling changed “the atmosphere” on climate change, and may have affected the debate in the run-up to the all-important summit for a new climate change treaty that will be held in less than three months in Paris.

“I think that [negotiators] will know now that the judge is one of the partners [of climate activists], next to the Pope, and others, that are all saying more should be done. It's another signal that we should take climate change seriously, and that we should act.”

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