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Dutch court orders state to reduce emissions by 25% within five years to protect its citizens from climate change in world’s first climate liability suit

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Urgenda supporters celebrate at The Hague after court ruling requiring Dutch government to slash emissions. Photograph: Chantal Bekker/Urgenda

Dutch government ordered to cut carbon emissions in landmark ruling

Dutch court orders state to reduce emissions by 25% within five years to protect its citizens from climate change in world’s first climate liability suit

Arthur Neslen The Hague

Wednesday 24 June 2015 06.04 EDT Last modified on Thursday 25 June 2015 11.48 EDT

A court in The Hague has ordered the Dutch government to cut its emissions by at least 25% within five years, in a landmark ruling expected to cause ripples around the world. To cheers and hoots from climate campaigners in court, three judges ruled that government plans to cut emissions by just 14-17% compared to 1990 levels by 2020 were unlawful, given the scale of the threat posed by climate change. Jubilant campaigners said that governments preparing for the Paris climate summit later this year would now need to look over their shoulders for civil rights era-style legal challenges where emissions-cutting pledges are inadequate. “Before this judgement, the only legal obligations on states were those they agreed among themselves in international treaties,” said Dennis van Berkel, legal counsel for Urgenda, the group that brought the suit. “This is the first a time a court has determined that states have an independent legal obligation towards their citizens. That must inform the reduction commitments in Paris because if it doesn’t, they can expect pressure from courts in their own jurisdictions.” In what was the first climate liability suit brought under human rights and tort law, Judge Hans Hofhuis told the court that the threat posed by global warming was severe and acknowledged by the Dutch government in international pacts. “The state should not hide behind the argument that the solution to the global climate problem does not depend solely on Dutch efforts,” the judges’ ruling said. “Any reduction of emissions contributes to the prevention of dangerous climate change and as a developed country the Netherlands should take the lead in this.” After a legal campaign that took two and a half years to get to its first hearing in April, normally dispassionate lawyers were visibly moved by the judge’s words. “As the verdict was being read out, I actually had tears in my eyes,” Roger Cox, Urgenda’s lead advocate, told the Guardian. “It was an emotional moment.”….

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