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Dutch Court declares war on climate change

Written By: - Date published: 8:34 am, June 25th, 2015 - 36 comments
Categories: climate change, global warming, national, same old national, sustainability - Tags:

climate change pacific

In a case that may have local implications a Dutch Court has ordered the Netherlands Government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their 1990 levels by 25% within 5 years.

From the Guardian:

To cheers and hoots from climate campaigners in court, three judges ruled that government plans to cut emissions by just 14-17% compared to 1990 levels by 2020 were unlawful, given the scale of the threat posed by climate change.

Jubilant campaigners said that governments preparing for the Paris climate summit later this year would now need to look over their shoulders for civil rights era-style legal challenges where emissions-cutting pledges are inadequate.

“Before this judgement, the only legal obligations on states were those they agreed among themselves in international treaties,” said Dennis van Berkel, legal counsel for Urgenda, the group that brought the suit.

“This is the first a time a court has determined that states have an independent legal obligation towards their citizens. That must inform the reduction commitments in Paris because if it doesn’t, they can expect pressure from courts in their own jurisdictions.”

In a passage which trashes our government’s stance that New Zealand is too small to matter the Court said this:

The state should not hide behind the argument that the solution to the global climate problem does not depend solely on Dutch efforts … [a]ny reduction of emissions contributes to the prevention of dangerous climate change and as a developed country the Netherlands should take the lead in this.”

The Dutch Government’s original plan, to reduce 1990 emissions by 14 – 17% appears herculean compared to our Government’s performance where current emissions are 21% above 1990 levels and there is no sign of yearly increases stopping.

Could such a case be conducted here?  Possibly the most likely area to attack is the Government’s consultation on New Zealand’s climate change target for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at the end of this year.  The consultation process has been fundamentally flawed, with a discussion document heavy on rhetoric on how expensive it would be to do something without actually providing any proper analysis.  Government’s handling of the feedback together with the process itself may open up novel means of attack by way of judicial review of the decisions although time is short.

Of course the Government’s rationale is bogus.  The cost of doing something is rather small whereas the cost of doing nothing is the devastation of our environment.  And if you want an indication of the effect on GDP Russell Norman’s tweet provides a simple yet effective summary.

Update:  Greenpeace protesters have erected a banner on Parliament which sums up the Government’s approach very well.

John Key cut pollution create jobs yeah nah

John Key cut pollution create jobs yeah nah2

36 comments on “Dutch Court declares war on climate change ”

  1. Sable 1

    Glad to see at least one country doing something substantive about challenging the corporate stoogery of its government….

  2. dukeofurl 2

    I thought that with 3 judges it would be some sort of higher appeals court with real authority, but it does seem its only the first level ‘district court’.
    The Dutch of course use the European Napoleonic system for their judiciary so not sure if this decision will have application under the English derived system.

    Pictures showing the what could be the judges hugging the lawyers are most unusual


  3. Macro 3

    In my submission on the above mentioned consultation on NZ’s Climate Change target I concluded by saying this:

    The Planet and the people on Earth, can no longer wait while Governments play chicken as to who is going to act first on combating global warming. The denialists have had their say and their evidence is found wanting. Now is the time for positive action by all; including Governments owning up to the need for collaborative action across Nations.

    Unfortunately we have as our “negotiating” Minister for COP in Paris, Tim Groser, whose modus operandi in all of these sorts of multi-national meetings is one of offering up the least, and expecting the most – as if that is all that matters. If he can wangle a “deal” that costs “nothing” – then he thinks he has achieved great things. This is not the mindset we, or the Planet, need right now.

  4. maui 4

    I thought that was a pic of the Dutch Parliament at first, but there’s our leaders face! Well done Greenpeace! Not sure how they got up there unnoticed.

  5. Bill 5

    25% reduction below 1990 in 5 years = bye-bye economy.

    Globally, zero by 2050 (which is what is needed) = bye-bye economy.

    So the supposed costings, that are based on economic orthodoxy, are irrelevant.

    We need to view climate change/global warming as a political and social issue while condemning any and all economic views as irrelevant and illegitimate.

    btw. A few years ago a British worker won a dismissal case when he argued he was fired for refusing to undertake employment related tasks/actions that contributed to climate change. The judge found in his favour on grounds of discrimination. The same discrimination legislation applies here in NZ – you cannot discriminate on religious grounds. Interestingly, or oddly, the judge said that concerns/beliefs about climate change/AGW had to be treated on the same basis as religion. As far as I’m aware the case was never successfully appealed by the employer.

    Next time your employer instructs you to fly to where-ever for whatever, what you reckon the chances are that you dig your heals in?

    • weka 5.1

      “We need to view climate change/global warming as a political and social issue while condemning any and all economic views as irrelevant and illegitimate.”

      Yes, and to get the former we need to offer people a way out of the latter (or an alternative). Telling people that they just stop paying their mortgages or quit their jobs is not going to work just yet for most people (but it’s still a good thing to be saying for the people that can take that on board).

      Maybe the underclasses need to do some outreach to the middle classes and reassure them it’s not that bad esp if the power differentials were sorted ;-0

      But seriously, I think there is a gap here for activism which is to show people how to transition.

    • OneTrack 5.2

      Maybe Metiria and Kennedy can set the example first.

  6. ankerawshark 6

    Well done Greenpeace and my heart felt thanks to those who took this bold move

  7. Kiwiri 7

    Can haz that as sticker puhleaze?

  8. Steve Wrathall 8

    So public policy should be set by unelected judges? I guess it saves time on all that tedious democracy stuff. Especially when fewer and fewer voters are buying the shrill claims of warmists after 3 decades of false predictions. As James Hansen said: the “democratic process isn’t working”. So which alternative system do warmists prefer?

    • Macro 8.1


      Lets allow unelected multinationals to determine the laws of our country instead – after all they know so much better.

      Oh! that’s right we just have – it’s called TPPA.

      Sorry to be offensive Wrathall – but I do find your attitude to this extremely serious matter highly offensive. You have had your say – its proven to be wrong on all counts – now just go and sit in your little cold corner and STFU

    • mickysavage 8.2

      Why is that? The science is that clear that any elected body that refused to do anything about it is being irrational and should be subject to judicial intervention.

    • Colonial Viper 8.3

      So public policy should be set by unelected judges?

      You don’t know fuck all about “democracy” and how it works Steve Wrathall if you can’t see that one role of the judiciary is to help prevent our elected officials from screwing the nation over.

      • Steve Wrathall 8.3.1

        Please explain how massively restricting access to fossil fuels, and everything that relies on them: food, building materials, transport, etc… will not “screw over” the very people that “progressives” claim to care about.

        Cold, damp houses? Children going hungry? Sound familiar?

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          Simple: don’t molly-coddle those who have far more than they need. Kids can learn to share, so wealthy callous trash can too.

        • maui

          And what do you know in a world with an abundance of energy and food we haven’t been able to provide healthy homes (even homes at all) or enough food for the disadvantaged in our society. Maybe with a different economic model we’ll be able to do that by prioritising everyone, not neglecting the poor and wisely using our resources.

    • adam 8.4

      I love reading comment here from people who just let propaganda wash over them, then repeat it back verbatim, thinking it’s an original thought.

      Look Steve, you just said – what you said, straight out of the play book of the Lehman Brothers.

      Freedom of thought, means thinking for yourself – I know it’s getting harder and harder in this environment – but you just have to read things you disagree with to get a more fulsome view of the world.

      To quote propaganda back at people who are actively fighting against said propaganda – well do I need to say more…

    • Incognito 8.5

      “With this order, the court has not entered the domain of politics. The court must provide legal protection, also in cases against the government, while respecting the government’s scope for policymaking. For these reasons, the court should exercise restraint and has limited therefore the reduction order to 25%, the lower limit of the 25%-40% norm.”


  9. maui 9

    NZ Herald story has an online poll asking do you think the protest is good or bad? If people are interested.

    It also has a video of Breakfast TV host Rawdon Christie (the Tory media plant) asking a protestor, “Do you really think this is going to work this time?” in an annoying, childish “this is has got no hope of working” voice.

  10. T Chris 10

    I think that Greenpeace should be looking at themselves and their own issues at the moment given their Indian branches actions.

    NZ contribution to carbon emissions – 0.01%

    World airlines contribution to carbon emissions – 4%

    If they have to protest, down the airport would be more productive

    • Bill 10.1

      You don’t have a link for that 0.01%, do you? No, of course you don’t. The figure is about 10x what you claim.NZ is about 0.06% of the world’s population & contributes about ~0.1% of emissions. Not flash. Over 7 tonnes per person, per year as of 2010. And we need to hit zero by mid century.

      • T Chris 10.1.1

        It is still nothing in the scheme of things

        You can’t hit zero

        Unless everyone is supposed to stop breathing

        • Bill

          Zero emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.

          So, on 2010 figures, every person in New Zealand has to reduce their footprint by about 7 tonnes.

          • T Chris

            That will help while India, China and the US aren’t

            The cost outweighs the benefits

            • adam

              “The cost outweighs the benefits”

              And there it is – the kicker – back to ideology to justify doing nothing.

              You may die before people have to live with the consequences of burning carbon at a ridiculous rate. So so what ah, T Chris, as long as you can drink your latte and suck down your chardonnay – you’ll be right mate.

              Move beyond, what you know into understanding – the benefit is only one thing, and it has no price.

              • T Chris

                Comparative to the rest of the world we pretty cause no consequences.

                Why aren’t greenpeace protesting at the airport?

                • adam

                  Where does power reside – or more importantly, where do our perceptions of power lie? I don’t think, we think – the airport is a place of power and influence.

                  And as Bill rightly pointed out – per head of population – we’re shocking consumers. And quite frankly we are the west. Plus, we are beyond, well we’re not that bad…

                • Colonial Rawshark

                  Comparative to the rest of the world we pretty cause no consequences.

                  You were the kid who enjoyed taking a piss in his neighbours swimming pool, weren’t you?

                • mickysavage

                  Comparative to the rest of the world we pretty cause no consequences.

                  Same with the Dutch. Didn’t stop their judiciary saying that they were a first world nation and able to do something.

        • maui

          We have the 5th highest per person emissions in the world. We’re also a comparitively rich country that has relied on high emissions for at least several decades. Those are two very good reasons to lead the way on reducing emissions, or to pay our dues towards the climate pollution we’re over represented in.

          • T Chris

            We also have the highest renewable energy sources

            • maui

              Other countries would really be calling us out then if we didnt and were the highest emitter in the world.

            • mickysavage

              And Labour wanted to make our energy supply even more renewable but this Government sabotaged efforts to achieve this.

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