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Ruven Fleming comments on Groundbreaking Climate Case: The Urgenda-Appeal Verdict

12 October 2018

On 9 October 2018 the Hague Court of Appeals issued a ground-breaking verdict in the appeals case Urgenda Foundation v The Netherlands. The court of appeals upheld the initial verdict of 2015 and rejected the appeal of the Netherlands, ordering the State to achieve a level of reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by end-2020 that is more ambitious than envisioned by the State in its current policy.

Dr. Ruven Fleming
Dr. Ruven Fleming

In a well-scheduled and orchestrated announcement just before the Easter Holidays, the Dutch government published its decision to phase out the biggest source of gas in the country by 2030. The Netherlands is dependent on gas as its main source of energy. In a press conference premier minister Mark Rutte called it an `important decision´, adding that the repercussions of gas production in Groningen, namely the earth tremors, are no longer acceptable.

The Netherlands are now obliged by the court to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% by the end of 2020, compared to 1990-levels.  The decision is based on the duty of care under articles 2 (the right to life) and 8 European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) (the right to family life, which also covers the right to be protected from harmful environmental influences of a nature and scope this serious). From a legal theory point of view the decision raises questions about the new and unconventional way in which the court interpreted the precautionary principle.

The Netherlands submitted 29 grounds of appeal against the initial verdict to the Hague Court of Appeals. The initial question in the appeals case was whether or not the Urgenda Foundation was inadmissable to the case in the first place, because it cannot invoke article 34 ECHR directly. This point has now been rejected by the Hague Court of Appels (para. 35). The court says that Dutch law (and not the ECHR or the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)) is decisive in determining access to the Dutch courts -  and that this access is granted by Book 3 Section 305a of the Dutch Civil Code to Urgenda. As a result of this specific provision of Dutch law is Urgenda entitled to invoke articles 2 and 8 ECHR on behalf of natural persons and the current generation in general (which they did).

Read the entire blogpost by Dr. Ruven Fleming, Assistant Professor in Energy Law: Groundbreaking Climate Case: The Urgenda-Appeal Verdict (The Hague Court of Appeal Case No 200.178.245/01) Case Comment

This article was published by the Faculty of Law.

Last modified:23 October 2018 10.04 a.m.

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