Court verdict could undermine the government’s ability to set policy.
The Dutch government said Tuesday it plans to appeal against a court decision which ordered it to slash emissions, arguing the verdict could set a precedent for courts to interfere with government policy.
In a June 24 ruling, a court in The Hague ordered the government to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020, saying that the more modest 17 percent cuts that it was expected to achieve by that year were not enough to combat global warming.
Wilma Mansveld, the Dutch environment minister, sent a letter to the Dutch parliament announcing the cabinet would appeal against the ruling, arguing that the verdict constrains the state’s ability to make decisions by balancing competing interests.
“For the very first time in Holland, a judge has given a ruling on a policy implemented by the government, passed by a parliamentary majority,” said Annelou van Egmond, spokeswoman for the environment ministry. “What is very important to us, is get the verdict of a higher court of law to see if this was a one-off or if this is going to be the approach.”
The danger for the government is that if the verdict stands then courts could end up tying its hands on a host of other issues.
“There are a great many treaties that countries partake in, that say there’s an ambition to do something,” said van Egmond, pointing to agreements under the Internal Labor Organization or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “If these treaties aren’t just considered a goal but a legal limit that’s quite a change.”
Despite the decision to appeal, the government will still go ahead and begin carrying out the court’s emissions mandate.
The verdict followed a lawsuit brought by Urgenda, a Dutch foundation, along with 900 co-plaintiffs, who argued the government was shirking its duty to protect its citizens.
In its ruling, the court found that “the severity and magnitude of climate change make it necessary to take measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” The court found the government’s emissions pledge was below “the 25 percent to 40 percent for developed countries deemed necessary in climate science and international climate policy.”
The ruling was celebrated by environmental groups, which had worried that Holland was falling behind more ambitious European countries like Germany in reducing emissions.