Pathways from Paris: Does Urgenda Lead to Canada?

(2017) 30:3 J Envt L & Prac 241

54 Pages Posted: 26 May 2017 Last revised: 17 Apr 2018

See all articles by Michael Slattery

Michael Slattery

Slattery & Slattery - Aboriginal law practitioners

Date Written: May 4, 2017


In the unusual case Urgenda v Netherlands, a Dutch trial court found the government’s greenhouse gas emissions target was negligent and ordered it to meet a higher standard. Urgenda’s success suggests a similarly novel case is possible in Canada and this paper looks to see if the ruling’s propositions are transportable to Canada. Ultimately, this paper concludes that the tort-based approach does not survive the transatlantic voyage. However, it suggests that Canada’s national emissions targets, established under the Paris Agreement as an exercise of the executive’s prerogative power, may be judicially reviewed. This paper accordingly summarizes Urgenda in relation to Canadian law, reviews Canadian jurisprudence on climate change and the judicial review of the prerogative powers, and explains why a failure to meet Canada’s emissions targets as set under the Paris Agreement is justiciable.

Keywords: Climate change; human rights; European Union law; international law; tort; negligence; constitutional law; environmental law; separation of powers; responsible government; Crown prerogative; judicial review; novel action

Suggested Citation

Slattery, Michael, Pathways from Paris: Does Urgenda Lead to Canada? (May 4, 2017). (2017) 30:3 J Envt L & Prac 241, Available at SSRN:

Michael Slattery (Contact Author)

Slattery & Slattery - Aboriginal law practitioners ( email )

Toronto, Ontario


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