On Friday 13 December the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that the Dutch State, based on the human rights enshrined in Articles 2 and 8 of the European Covenant on Human Rights, has a positive obligation to reduce at least 25% of greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2020, compared to 1990 levels.
The United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, David Boyd, calls this final ruling in the Urgenda climate case '“the most important climate change court decision in the world so far, confirming that human rights are jeopardised by the climate emergency and that wealthy nations are legally obligated to achieve rapid and substantial emission reductions.”
The Dutch government on April 24 2020 announced measures including huge cuts to coal use, garden greening and limits on livestock herds as part of its plan to lower emissions to comply with the supreme court ruling. The Urgenda Foundation said that these and earlier compliance measures totalled about €3bn euros, confirming the impact of the world’s most successful climate lawsuit to date. When Urgenda filed the initial legal challenge back in 2013, many lawyers and legal scholars were sceptical about the chances of success.
Urgenda's lawyer, Roger Cox, is one of the ten green pioneers I interviewed for my Dutch ebook Stemmen voor de Aarde (Voices for the Earth). The historic Urgenda victory gives a special meaning to one of the things Roger said in the course of our conversation:
If you think you stand for something, and if you think you can have some influence, then you just have to go for it and not ask too many questions about the result. If you just keep going and show your commitment, things will eventually happen. I have often thought of all those top athletes who are often asked the question: why did you succeed and so many others did not. (...) Because I have often thought during all those years that I should quit, because it took too much energy and such a great toll on my life, what was the purpose of it all? But in the end there has always been a voice that said 'just keep on going', that's what you do and ultimately, after 9 years, there is the result.
- Roger Cox, lawyer in the Urgenda climate case.'
You can read Roger's interview, and the inspiring stories of other green visionaries such as Polly Higgins and Cormac Cullinan, here.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Mike Corder
Fri, 13 December