The Urgenda Case - Building a Bridge between Science and Politics
7 Pages Posted: 7 May 2017
Date Written: November 20, 2016
On 24 June 2015 the Dutch District Court in The Hague established that the Dutch government has a duty of care to mitigate dangerous effects of climate change and ordered a reduction of GHG emissions. The claimant, a Dutch Environmental group (the Urgenda Foundation), could not, according to the Court, rely directly on international agreements related to climate change, as these are inherently inter-state by nature. Instead, the Court interpreted the liability of the Dutch Government based in the tort of negligence (onrechtmatige daad) with reference to international law obligations, more specifically the international ‘no harm’ principle. In this regard the Court finds that specific obligations for the Dutch government arise from amongst others the UNFCCC, its protocols and COP decisions. This case is deemed a landmark case in climate change litigation because it is the first time that a court orders GHG emissions limitations on the basis of sources other than statutory mandates. This paper will discuss the court’s reliance on international law and international policy and place it in the broader context of domestic courts role in enforcing and qualifying climate change ‘law’ as the bridge between scientific knowledge and political action.
Keywords: Urgenda, Dutch Court, Domestic Courts, Climate Change, International Law, Climate Policy, UNFCCC, COP decisions
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