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Saturday, December 28, 2019

Hague Court orders Dutch State to reduce greenhouse gas emissions


By: Steffen van der Velde LL.M., researcher EU law, T.M.C. Asser Instituut, The Hague.


By ruling of the District Court of The Hague,[1] current Dutch climate change policy was deemed to be in breach of the State’s ‘duty of care’ versus Dutch NGO ‘Urgenda’, and the Dutch State was subsequently ordered to reduce Dutch greenhouse gas emissions by 25% for the year 2020 as compared to the year 1990. Based on the prevailing scientific views, Urgenda argued that in order to attain the well-known ‘2°C-target’, a global reduction of 25-40 % in 2020, and 80-95% by 2050 is required.[2] This line of reasoning was in casu also accepted by the State. Through several international agreements and through EU law, the Netherlands has committed itself to the attainment of these objectives.

Present Dutch climate change policy, however, is largely based on the ‘Energy Agreement’[3] concluded between government, businesses, NGOs and other stakeholders in September 2013, which will limit emissions by 14-17% in 2020. The Court concluded that taking such ‘less adequate’ measures can only be justified when economically unjustifiable costs would be incurred or when new scientific insights come to light. The Dutch government failed to convincingly argue that this was indeed the case. Hence, the Court concluded that the State should mitigate the effects of climate change ‘as much’ and ‘as quickly’ as possible.[4]

The Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs reacted by explaining that the State is already doing everything within its powers to tackle climate change, and that the attainment of the objectives as agreed upon in the Energy Agreement is hard enough as it is.[5] For now, the government is ‘carefully reading the judgement’ and will render its decision whether or not to appeal in August 2015.

Do you want to find out more about the impact of the Urgenda decision or the climate change debate in general? Sign up for the Asser Summer Programme on International and European Environmental Law, 24 – 28 August 2015, at:

[1] District Court of The Hague, Stichting Urgenda v. De Staat der Nederlanden (Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Milieu), judgment, case nr. C/09/456689, HA ZA 13-1396, 24 June 2015. Hereafter: judgement.

[2] Par. 4.29 Judgment.

[3] Sociaal Economische Raad, Energieakkoord voor duurzame groei, 6 September 2013. Available (in Dutch) at:, retrieved at 30 June 2015.

[4] Par. 4.73 Judgment.

[5] NOS, Kamp niet bezig met verdere beperking CO2-uitstoot,, 26 June 2015.

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