AFP

THE HAGUE

A Dutch court on Wednesday ordered the state to slash greenhouse gas emissions nationwide by at least 25 percent by 2020, in a case that could serve as a blueprint for activists around the world.

“The court orders the State to reduce the overall volume of greenhouse gas emissions in such a way that they are at least 25 percent less in 2020 compared to 1990,” judge Hans Hofhuis said as the courtroom erupted in cheers and applause. The ruling came after almost 900 Dutch citizens took their government to court in April in a bid to force a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to tackle climate change. They hope that it will serve as a template for legal action elsewhere in the world. Marjan Minnesma, who heads environmental rights group Urgenda which brought the case, had said it wanted The Hague to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent over 1990 levels by 2020. “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,” the court said. Effective control of Dutch emissions is “one of the State’s tasks,” it said, adding that the cost of the reductions would not be “unacceptably high”.

“This is a world first for us,” Minnesma said at the court, expressing hopes that the precedent set by the Netherlands would be “followed by many across the world.” “Millions of people who already experience climate change personally hope that we, the people responsible for the emissions and who have the means, will still make a timely intervention,” Minnesma said in a statement.

“These people, with this ruling in hand, can now bring their own cases,” she said. The Amsterdam-based Urgenda said the case was the first in Europe in which citizens attempted to hold the state responsible for its potentially devastating inaction on climate change, and the first in the world in which human rights were used as a legal basis to protect citizens against its effects.

The plaintiffs had asked the judges to rule that a rise in global temperatures over over two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) would be a human rights infraction. The international community has agreed to peg global warming to 2C over pre-industrial levels. “This judgement not only impacts me, but also my children and my grandchildren,” Urgenda worker Sharon Ceha, 54, told AFP at the court.

Lawsuits against governments and companies have increasingly been seen as a way to press for action against climate change over the last decade. Countries are to publish their own undertakings to reduce greenhouse gas emissions ahead of a hoped-for global deal to be agreed in Paris in December. The 28-member European Union has said it will reduce emissions by 40 percent compared to 1990 levels by 2030, while the world’s second-largest polluter after China, the United States, has said wants to reduce emissions by between 26-28 percent by 2025, compared to 2005 levels. The international community has agreed to peg global warming to 2C over pre-industrial levels.