Sunday

16th May 2021

Dutch court forces government to cut emissions

  • The Dutch government announced €3bn for new climate initiatives to comply with a landmark court ruling - which forces the government to reduce its greenhouse gas emission by 25 percent by the end of 2020 (Photo: Andrew Griffith)

The Dutch government has announced a new package of measures to lower the country's greenhouse gas emissions - in order to comply with a court ruling.

In 2013, the non-profit Dutch environmental foundation Urgenda, on behalf of around 900 citizens, sued the state for the government's failure to take responsibility for the Netherlands' contribution to the climate crisis.

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After a seven-year legal battle, the Supreme Court in the Netherlands ruled in December that current climate Dutch policies were inadequate - forcing the government to reduce national emissions by at least 25 percent (compared to 1990) by the end of 2020.

The 'Urgenda case' came to the world's attention and set a precedent in climate legal action with a landmark decision that was considered "an immense victory for climate justice".

The United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and the environment David Boyd said that "this is the most important climate change court decision in the world so far, confirming that human rights are jeopardised by the climate emergency and that wealthy nations are legally obligated to achieve rapid and substantial emission reductions".

To comply with the verdict, the Dutch government announced last week the adoption of 30 measures out of Urgenda's '54 climate solutions' - which were developed in collaboration with 800 organizations and civil society groups.

"We expect that some additional measures will be necessary for the next year, but for the moment it is a promising package," Urgenda told EUobserver.

The crucial change is the 75 percent reduction in the capacity of the country's three coal-fired power station, which are all due to close by 2030.

Additionally, the government proposes to lower the maximum speed on highways during daytime hours and set up several subsidy schemes for renewable energy and energy efficiency measures.

For example, people who hand in old fridges and freezers could be eligible for a €35 discount to buy a new appliance.

In total, the government is expected to invest more than €3bn, including €2bn for mostly roof-top solar projects, €300m for household energy-saving measures such as double glazing, €360m to compensate farmers for livestock reductions, and €30m for LED lighting.

The package of proposals, which was presented to parliament on Friday (24 April), was described as "a promising start" by climate litigation activists.

"The cabinet is not only opting for the cheapest option (completely or partly closing coal-fired power stations), but also for measures that ensure public support, lower energy bills, cleaner air and more biodiversity," Urgenda said in a statement.

The Dutch minister for economic affairs and climate policy, Erik Wiebes, said that the new measures are expected to provide an economic impulse in the short and medium-term, particularly in those sectors that are not active due to the coronavirus outbreak.

"[But] if a measure appears to be having a negative effect on jobs, the cabinet will do its best to minimise the consequences as much as possible," Wiebes also warned.

The government said that a number of these measures would help to reduce nitrogen pollution, which has also been subjected to other legal actions.

Although in global terms the Dutch are not major polluters, per capita the Netherlands has the fourth-highest CO2 emissions in the EU, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) - after Luxembourg, Estonia and the Czech Republic.

Although ongoing lockdowns and coronavirus measures have sharply decreased emissions across Europe, this reduction is expected to have little impact in the long term.

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