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article imageDutch court tells government to slash greenhouse gas

By Danny KEMP (AFP)     Oct 9, 2018 in Environment

The Dutch government on Tuesday lost a legal appeal against a landmark court ruling which ordered it to slash greenhouse gases by at least 25 percent by 2020.

The Hague appeals court upheld a 2015 court victory by environmental rights group Urgenda, which sought to force a national reduction of emissions blamed for global warming.

Cheers erupted from activists in the courtroom as judges read out their ruling saying that "the state is acting unlawfully and in violation of the duty of care".

"Up until now the state has done too little to prevent dangerous climate change, and is not doing enough to make up lost ground," head judge Marie-Anne Tan-de Sonnaville said.

"There is a real threat of danger against which measures must be taken."

The Dutch government said it would "carry out the decision" and that it may still be possible to achieve the target.

But it added that "the government will now study the outcome of this procedure, regarding a possible appeal with the Dutch Supreme Court."

Urgenda -- which brought the case in April 2015 on behalf of some 900 Dutch citizens -- said the judges had made "mincemeat" of the government's arguments.

"It has not happened before that a court has ruled against the government, that they should do more on climate change. That's unique and that's why there was so many people in the world looking," Urgenda director Marjan Minnesma told AFP.

- 'Makes a difference' -

"This case also says, well, before 2020 you should really do something. You cannot be a laggard because everyday that you're late, there will be more CO2 in the air and it stays there for hundreds of years. So it makes a difference whether you stop emitting in 2030 or in 2050," she added.

The appeals court ruling comes a day after the UN's Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) said in a landmark report that warming is on track toward an unliveable 3C or 4C rise, and avoiding global chaos will require a major transformation.

The low-lying Netherlands is particularly vulnerable to sea level rises caused by climate change.

However despite its environmentally friendly image it remains one of Europe's biggest carbon dioxide producers. Urgenda said it had only cut emissions by 13 percent since 1990.

The Dutch government had argued that because the lower court that made the 2015 decision "made a policy and political choice" it had overreached its powers.

The court at the time found in favour of the rights group, exhorting the government to do more in a ruling handed down a few months ahead of the Paris Climate Agreement.

The global Paris deal sets out measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent temperatures rising by more than two degrees Celsius.

The Dutch government has plans to close two of its oldest coal-fire plants by 2025. Three remaining coal plants will have to shut by 2030, with the Netherlands committed to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 49 percent by then.

In June, Dutch MPs unveiled ambitious new climate legislation aimed at reducing the country's greenhouse gas emissions to almost zero by 2050, while introducing an annual review to ensure targets are met.

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