AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch High Court on Friday ordered the government of the Netherlands to step up its fight against climate change and cut greenhouse gas emissions faster than planned.
The court said the government had not done enough to protect its citizens from the dangerous effects of climate change, which can “threaten their lives and wellbeing”.
Home to many large industries, Europe’s main seaport and an abundant supply of cheap natural gas, the Netherlands is among the largest polluters in Europe.
To live up to its obligations, the government needs to ensure that CO2 emissions are at least 25% below 1990 levels by the end of 2020, the court said in a final verdict, upholding a 2015 decision by a lower court.
The ruling meant a final defeat for the government in the case brought by environmental group Urgenda Foundation, on behalf of nearly 900 Dutch citizens.
“This is a landmark decision”, climate change expert Nigel Brook of law firm Clyde & Co said.
“Not least because of its legal basis: the principle that the government is required to protect the country’s citizens against the dangers posed by climate change.”
Emissions in the Netherlands were 15% lower than in 1990 last year, and are expected to be reduced by around 23% in 2020, the government’s environmental advisory body PBL said last month.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte said his government would do everything it could to reach the goal of reducing CO2-emissions by 25% next year, without elaborating on possible measures.
“It’s complicated”, Rutte said. “We have to close the remaining gap in a very short time.”
The small, but densely populated country has the fifth highest level of CO2 emissions per capita in the EU, while deriving only 7% of its energy from renewable sources.
A raft of environmental initiatives announced this year would cut emissions to 43%-48% below 1990 levels by 2030, if the plans are all rolled out on time, according to PBL calculations.
That would be less than the 49% target that Dutch authorities have set for 2030. The current EU-wide goal for CO2 emissions over the next 10 years is a 40% cut.
Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Edmund Blair and Elaine Hardcastle