A judgment in a Dutch court has left the Netherlands government with a legal requirement to perform the politically suicidal task of cutting emissions 25% by the end of 2020.
Netherlands climate change: Court orders bigger cuts in emissions
20 December 2019
The highest court in the Netherlands has upheld a ruling requiring the government to slash greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% of 1990 levels by the end of next year.
The case was brought six years ago by the Urgenda environment group in a bid to force ministers to go well beyond EU targets.
However, the chances of the government reaching the target look slim.
By the end of 2018, emissions were down only 15% on 1990 levels.
Dutch environment researchers believe that levels could be cut by 23% by the end of 2020 but believe the reduction could be as low as 19%.
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The government in The Hague presented its climate accord at the end of June, with plans for a 49% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and phasing out coal-fired power generation starting in 2020.
Last month, under pressure to act over a nitrogen oxide pollution crisis, Dutch ministers announced a cut in the daytime speed limit to 100km/h (62mph). The Council of State forced the government to act in that case, by declaring that rules for granting building and farming permits were in breach of EU law protecting nature.
In its decision on Friday, the Supreme Court said it had based its ruling (in Dutch) on the UN climate convention and the state’s legal obligation to protect the lives and well-being of Dutch citizens.
“There is a great deal of consensus in the scientific and international community over the urgent need for a reduction in greenhouse gases by at least 25% by developed countries,” the court said.
The Dutch Government has been badly caught out by their own climate hypocrisy. Enshrining climate action in law may have seemed a good idea at the time, but that law means Dutch politicians can be held accountable for failing to meet their fantasy climate targets.
At the same time, rising discontent with increasingly draconian climate action is threatening to cause major civil unrest. The recent climate action inspired tractor road blockade, which saw furious Dutch farmers defying army roadblocks, is only a taste of what will happen if the Dutch Government seriously attempts to act on this latest carbon emissions court order.
In the background is the undemocratic, authoritarian European Union, which like the UN appears to be increasingly turning to climate action as the source of its political legitimacy. The EU will likely vigorously oppose any attempt by the Dutch Government to defuse their current climate dilemma by backing down on climate action.