Urgenda Climate Caes (Photo Chantal Bekker GraphicAlert)

Historical decision by Dutch supreme court

Why are Vera and Frank co-plaintiffs in the climate case of Urgenda? For coral reefs it is important that global warming stays below the 1.5 degrees. If the Earth heats up more, most corals will die. Since coral reefs are the nursery of the ocean, this has huge consequences for most of marine life. No one can predict exactly what the consequences will be and what effects that will have on life on land.

In order to limit the temperature rise, concrete steps must be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Dutch government has made international agreements to realize this and it does not sufficiently comply with it. Urgenda, along with nearly 900 co-plaintiffs, sued the State in 2013, forcing them to realize the goals they agreed on. Vera and Frank are also co-plaintiffs because climate change is deadly for coral reefs and the survival of many hundreds of millions of people depending on coral reefs and other living beings on Earth. We can build as many reefs as we want, but if the temperature continues to rise, our efforts are useless.

Supreme court in Den Haag, Netherlands
Supreme court in Den Haag, Netherlands
Before the verdict of the supreme court
Before the verdict of the supreme court

Urgenda has won the previous court case and the appeal, and then the State appealed to the Supreme Court to ask whether the judiciary can decide on government policy. The Supreme Court ruled on December 20, 2019 that the judiciary is authorized to do so. The ruling is based on European Human Rights. “The government has a duty to protect its citizens from dangerous climate change.” We are very pleased with the clear ruling of the Supreme Court! View the ruling of the Supreme Court here, there is even a summary in English for the many international press attending the ruling, see at 21:45 min. The Supreme Court explains very clearly that the judiciary has the right to force the Dutch government to adhere to agreements and to protect its citizens. It is up to the government with which policy they want to achieve the goals. The Supreme Court makes it very clear that the government must have reduced greenhouse gas emissions with 25% by the end of 2020 compared to level of 1990. Read the entire ruling here, it is in Dutch, the official English version will be available half January.

Joy after the ruling
Joy after the ruling

Urgenda, and 700 other organisation, has made a 50 points plan to reduce greenhouse gases. They want to work together with the Dutch government to reach the climate goals.

Interview with Marjan Minnesma and Koos van den Berg
Interview with Marjan Minnesma of Urgenda and lawyer Koos van den Berg

The responses to the verdict are very different, from “Great!” and politically coloured answers such as: “Supreme Court? This is the CO2 Council full of D66 (left wing) people!”. But whatever political preference you have, climate change concerns all of us. There is global and scientific consensus that climate change is caused by humans and that the consequences are very serious. There is international agreement that action must be taken to combat further climate change. What legal consequences this ruling has for other situations that the Dutch and other governments must protect its citizens, is still unclear. The fact is that citizens have the right to life and a safe future, which the governments must guarantee.

Luckily there are already many people who are doing their share to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Together we can create a better living environment, and healthy coral reefs as the foundation of life in our ocean.

For English see at 21:45 min

Here are some responses in international media:
BBC
Fortune
NBC News
The Guardian
The New York Times