Country Decisions Archives: Europe and North America

Netherlands: Urgenda v. Netherlands

The Hague District Court held that the Netherlands must ensure that Dutch emissions of greenhouse gases in the year 2020 are at least 25% lower than the level of emissions in 1990.  The Court based its decision on a general duty of care under Dutch law.  (Urgenda also raised several other legal grounds, including Articles 2 and 8 of the European Human Rights Convention, which protect the rights to life and privacy, respectively.  The Court stated that while Urgenda could not rely on these provisions directly, apparently because it is a legal rather than a natural person, they could still serve as a source of interpretation in implementing private-law standards such as the Dutch duty of care.  Paras. 4.45, 4.46.)  The Court found that the duty of care was not met because scientific studies (notably the 2007 report of the IPCC) indicated that developed countries must lower their emissions by 25-40% from 1990 levels in order to be able to have the average global temperature increase by no more than 2 degrees Celsius (the amount agreed by the international community to be the maximum allowable without massive harm), and that the government of the Netherlands itself had previously committed to that target, before more recently changing it without sufficient justification.