European Convention on Human Rights

Court finds the Netherlands’ 20% greenhouse gas emissions target to be unacceptable, citing the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the ECHR.

By Paul A. Davies and Michael D. Green

On 20 December 2019, the Dutch Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeal ruling in the Urgenda case, determining that the Dutch State was required to reduce Dutch greenhouse gas emissions by 25%[i] by the end of 2020. This decision marked the final ruling in a series of cases dating back to 2015.

In 2015, environmental nongovernmental organization, the Urgenda Foundation (Urgenda), brought a case against the Dutch State, alleging that the national target for greenhouse gas emission reductions was insufficient. The Dutch target at that time was the EU-wide figure of 20% compared to 1990 levels. According to Urgenda, the risks of climate change meant that the 20% target was insufficient, and only a decrease of at least 25% would be adequate.

The Hague District Court at first instance agreed with Urgenda, and ordered emissions be reduced by 25% by 2020, a finding that was initially confirmed by the Hague Court of Appeal in 2018. Now, the Dutch Supreme Court has followed suit.