Air Clean Up
Court Orders Dutch Government to Cut Admissions
Jan 22 2020 Read 1150 Times
The Dutch government has been ordered to cut admissions by 25% by 2020 from pre-Industrial Revolution levels by the highest court in the country. The landmark ruling, which is the first of its kind to occur anywhere in the world, signals the end to a judicial battle between the government and environmentalists that has raged for over four years.
The Supreme Court ruled that the Netherlands government had a duty to its people to protect them from the most adverse effects of climate change, especially given the low-lying nature of the nation and the increased incidence of extreme weather phenomena that have afflicted countries all around the globe. The decision has been hailed as a major success for environmental activists and a significant precedent for other ongoing court cases in other parts of the world.
A protracted victory
The court case against the Dutch government was first lodged by environmental organisation Urgenda in 2015, which argued that the current proposals to curb emissions and make the country eco-friendlier were not far-reaching enough. Despite complying with EU measures such as the Medium Combustion Plant Directive (MCPD), the government was deemed to have fallen short of its obligations to the Dutch people and ordered to reassess its plans.
In response, Prime Minister Mark Rutte contended that the court did not have the authority to dictate government policy, lodging an appeal which failed in October 2018. However, Rutte appealed again, this time to the Supreme Court, and the final decision landed late last year. His government will now be compelled to implement radical measures in order to reduce emissions by a quarter from pre-Industrial Revolution levels in just 12 months.
The country’s own Environmental Assessment Agency recently released a report which predicted that current initiatives would bring down emissions by between 19% and 26%, though critics believe that those projections are overly optimistic. “Measures now will have to be drastic and the government owes that entirely to itself, because this verdict has not been taken seriously by Prime Minister Rutte for four years,” said Faiza Oulahsen of the Dutch arm of Greenpeace.
An important precedent
The Supreme Court ruling is excellent news for environmentalists everywhere, since it proves that governments can be legally obliged to protect their citizens from the ills of manmade pollution and climate change. That’s in keeping with the wishes of the EU populace at large, 71% of whom recently stated that they would like governments to introduce tougher air quality measures.
To date, 1,442 lawsuits have been filed against governments regarding climate change issues all over the globe, but the 2015 decision was the first time that a government had been ordered to curb its emissions. Last month’s final ruling is the most significant one to date, and it’s hoped that it will set an important precedent for hundreds of other court cases that are still in progress.
Recent examples of climate change litigation include cases in Germany and Switzerland, where the judges have found in favour of both sides, respectively. However, commentators on the topic believe that the Dutch ruling will allow courts in all 47 member states of the Council of Europe to force their governments to take the issue seriously and implement measures that will not only safeguard the future of their own citizens, but also keep up their end of the bargain with regard to their Paris Agreement obligations.
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