The Dutch government must reduce carbon emissions by a minimum 25 per cent on 1990 levels by 2020, the district court of The Hague has ruled – the first time a judge has legally required a State to take climate mitigation actions.

The case against The Netherlands was brought by not-for-profit organisation Urgenda and close to 900 co-plaintiffs to make sure the country was doing its part to avert dangerous climate change.

“All the plaintiffs are overjoyed by the result,” Urgenda’s Marjan Minnesma, who initiated the case in 2013, said.

“This makes it crystal clear that climate change is a huge problem that needs to be dealt with much more effectively, and that states can no longer afford inaction. States are meant to protect their citizens, and if politicians will not do this of their own accord, then the courts are there to help.”

The court’s verdict said the State had a legal obligation to protect its citizens and was required to take necessary precautions.

“The parties agree that the severity and magnitude of climate change make it necessary to take measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” the court said in its ruling.

“The state must do more to reverse the imminent danger caused by climate change, given also its duty to protect and improve the environment.”

Currently, The Netherlands ambitions would see it reduce emissions by around 16 per cent by 2020, while countries like Germany and Denmark are set for the 40 per cent mark.

Ms Minnesma said that the case opened the door for other countries to start prosecuting their governments to act.

“Millions of people that are already suffering the consequences of climate change are hoping that we, the people that have caused the emissions and have the means to reduce them, will intervene while there is still time”, she said. “Those people can now, with our verdict in their hands, start their own climate cases.”

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