Another interesting court ruling in the Netherlands

EU law & environmentally related, once again

Note: I am not a very good translator nor do I know laws and such very well, so take this with a grain of salt.

Yesterday the Supreme Court of the Netherlands ruled that the court order for the Dutch State to reduce Dutch greenhouse gas(GHG) emissions compared to 1990 levels with 25% by the end of 2020 remains in force. It marks the end of the court case, as this ruling cannot be appealed, and therefore, is final.

Some background: The Dutch State wants to reduce GHG emissions by 20% in 2020 compared to 1990 levels, as agreed on EU level. The Urgenda Foundation wanted the state to reduce by 25% over the same period instead. They argued that global warming was a too great danger to life on earth, including humans in the Netherlands. In 2015, the Hague District Court agreed with Urgenda, and ordered the Dutch State to reduce GHG emissions with 25% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. This order was again confirmed by the Hague Court Appeal in 2018. Yesterday, the Supreme Court rejected the Dutch State's cassation appeal.

You might think that it's up to politicians to decide how much GHG emissions they want to reduce: it's policy after all. This is what the Dutch State also argued. This is true. However, it's up to the courts to verify if the policy is within bounds of the law, this is one of the core tasks of a court.

The courts based their judgement on the UN Climate Convention and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms(ECHR). The ECHR is baked into the Dutch State's constitution; the Dutch State is responsible for protecting (among other things) life, homes and well-being of the citizens in the Netherlands. The courts ruled that not doing the 25% reduction is unlawful, as not doing this would threaten lives and well-being for humanity including citizens in the Netherlands(it violates art. 2 & 8 in the ECHR). If you like to want to know the exact specifics, I recommend you to read the Supreme Court ruling from point 39 onward.

Now the Dutch State only has one year to get this done, an extremely hard task. At point 47 of the Supreme Court ruling you read that in 2017, GHG emissions dropped 13% of that in 1990. In 2018, 15% of 1990 levels.CBS The PBL published a prediction(Dutch) on the first of November this year, and it predicts 23% in 2020, with a high uncertainty(somewhere between 19-26%). The same article presents that these shortcomings are a worldwide trend.

I suppose that it would've been easier for the government if they started earlier, say 2015. Or much earlier. But they didn't. At least not sufficiently.

But what I find the most special about all this? The courts based themselves on the ECHR, i.e. human rights. If I understand correctly, the ECHR is all somehow baked into the laws of any member state of the European Union. Not all their implementations are the same, however. But bluntly said, I guess that would mean that any state that could make the 2020 25% goal, are obligated to do so by the ECHR. Well probably not really, but do you know what this means? If humanity doesn't do a proper job, climate change apparently is such a disaster to life on earth that it violates the ECHR.

But what I find the most special about all this? Very bluntly said, if I understand correctly, the courts ruled that climate change can be such a disaster to life on Earth, that not taking proper steps is violates the ECHR, i.e. human rights.

Hypothetical situation: if every state on Earth has the ECHR implemented in a similar way as the Netherlands, and has a similar court, can I conclude that a lot of states in fact are violating the ECHR?

ECHR is somehow baked into the laws of any EU member state, so go figure.

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