The Supreme Court of the Netherlands has ruled that the Netherlands Government must do more to reduce the nation's greenhouse gas emissions on human rights grounds
On 20 December 2019, a 7-year legal process in the Netherlands concluded with the Supreme Court of the Netherlands upholding two previous decisions by lower courts, requiring the State of the Netherlands to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% compared with 1990 levels by the end of 2020.1
This case marks an historic development in international jurisprudence on climate change because it required a decision on an important question of legal process: whether a domestic court has the power to enforce compliance with international treaties against a national government.
In the landmark decision, the Supreme Court held that Dutch courts do have that power,2 and definitively upheld the 2018 Court of Appeal decision (see our previous update on this case here), which found that the state has a duty of care to protect its citizens from climate change in accordance with its obligations under the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR).3
In delivering the judgment last Friday, the Supreme Court also made the following significant statements about the certainty of climate science and the need for action by all states:
"Under the current circumstances, it is a fact that dangerous climate change will occur within several decades. [Therefore,] a worldwide reduction of emissions is necessary in order to prevent irreversible climate change." 4 "All greenhouse gas emissions contribute to the total increase of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere and not a single country, small or large, can hide behind the...