Published online by Cambridge University Press: 25 August 2020
On December 20, 2019, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands published its judgment in The State of the Netherlands v. Urgenda. The judgment is largely a discussion of questions of Dutch law, but contains several conclusions that are relevant from an international law perspective. In particular, the Court held that on the basis of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the Netherlands has a positive obligation to take measures for the prevention of climate change and that it was required to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 25 percent by the end of 2020, compared with 1990 levels.
1 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change 2007: Mitigation. (Bert Metz et al. eds., 2007).
2 Rb Den Haag (Court of First Instance, The Hague) June 24, 2015, ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2015:7145 Urgenda t Staat der Nederlanden (Neth.).
3 Hof Den Haag (Court of Appeal, The Hague) Oct. 9, 2018, ECLI:NL:GHDHA:2018:2591 Staat der Nederlanden t Urgenda (Neth.).
4 HR Procureur-generaal en advocaat-generaal bij (Procurator-General and Advocate General, Supreme Court of the Netherlands) Sept. 13, 2019, ECLI:NL:PHR:2019:887 Urgenda t staat der Nederlanden (Neth.).
5 HR Nederlanden (Supreme Court of the Netherlands) Dec. 20, 2019, ECLI:NL:2019:2006, Urgenda t Staat der Nederlanden (Neth.).
6 Translated, the first paragraph of this provision reads: “A foundation or association with full legal capacity that, according to its articles of association, has the objection to protect specific interests, may bring to court a legal claim that intents to protect similar interests of other persons.”
7 Cf. e.g., Report of the Independent Expert on the Issue of Human Rights Obligations Relating to the Enjoyment of a Safe, Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Environment, John H. Knox, UN Document A/HRC/25/53, 30 December 2015, available at https://undocs.org/A/HRC/25/53 (last visited 9 April, 2020).
8 The Environment and Human Rights (State Obligations in Relation to the Environment in the Context of the Protection and Guarantee of the Rights to Life and to Personal Integrity: Interpretation and Scope of Articles 4(1) and 5(1) in relation to Articles 1(1) and 2 of the American Convention on Human Rights), Advisory Opinion OC-23/17, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (Nov. 15, 2017).
9 See, e.g., Ashgar Leghari v. Pakistan, (2015) W.P. No. 25501/2015 (Pak.).
10 A useful oversight of relevant literature is provided on the website of the Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and the Environment (GNHRE), https://gnhre.org/research-repository/climate-change.
11 Demir and Baykara v. Turkey, App. No. 34503/97, Eur. Ct. H.R. (2008).