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Court Orders Netherlands to Cut Emissions 25% in Five Years

Dutch Court Decision. Credit: Chantal Bekker/Urgenda

In a “remarkable” ruling Wednesday, a court in The Hague ordered the Dutch government to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25% in five years, after agreeing with 886 class action litigants that the country’s current climate strategy is illegal.

The decision “could trigger similar cases all around the world,” The Guardian reported Wednesday, with 8,000 citizens in Belgium preparing a similar case and a possible lawsuit taking shape in Norway.

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“It is remarkable,” said ClientEarth CEO James Thornton. “A major, sophisticated European court has broken through a political and psychological threshold. For the first time a court has ordered the government to protect its citizens from climate change.”

With its reliance on tort law, the Netherlands case “returns to the fundamental power of the court to prevent harm,” Thornton said. “It is of great relevance to courts in other countries—every country in the world has tort law.”

The verdict in the Hague “will likely not only inspire lawyers, but the environmental movement, which is tired after 23 years of international negotiations,” Howard writes. “This David and Goliath case shows that the climate change movement is not just made up of lentil-eating, sandal-wearing idealist liberals. All of the plaintiffs who successfully sued their government today are Dutch citizens, crowdsourced by Urgenda, the environmental foundation behind the case.”