Climate Action as Positive Human Rights Obligation: The Appeals Judgment in Urgenda v The Netherlands
Burgers, Laura & Staal, Tim ‘Climate action as positive human rights obligation: The appeals judgment in Urgenda v the Netherlands’ in Wessel, Ramses A; Werner, Wouter; Boutin, Bérénice (Eds.) Netherlands Yearbook of International Law 2018, T.M.C. Asser Press, forthcoming in spring 2019
Centre for the Study of European Contract Law Working Paper No. 2019-01
Amsterdam Center for International Law No. 2019-01
Law and Justice Across Borders Research Paper No. 2019-01
20 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2019 Last revised: 29 Jul 2022
Date Written: January 11, 2019
On 9 October 2018, the Hague Court of Appeal confirmed the first instance judgement rendered in the world-famous Urgenda case: the Dutch State commits a tort by setting a goal for greenhouse gasses emissions reduction of only 20% by the end of 2020, compared to 1990 levels. The State is ordered to raise this goal to at least 25%. Both judgments are heavily criticised by constitutional and administrative law scholars. Most of this critique is ultimately linked to the objection that the Courts overstepped their task in the constitutional separation of powers. With this objection the State also takes the case to the Supreme Court.
This annotation analyses the appellate court’s decision step by step, pointing out where it differs from the lower court’s decision and engaging with the various critiques. The Court of Appeal directly applies Articles 2 (right to life) and 8 (right to family life) of the ECHR, finds that these rights cover climate change related situations, and on the basis of Dutch civil procedure determines that 25% reduction is the factual minimum to prevent ECHR violations. Although parts of the decision could have been motivated in more detail, the authors conclude that the Court applied the law correctly and that neither the separation of powers, nor the political question doctrine were infringed.
Keywords: Urgenda, separation of powers, ECHR, climate change litigation, human rights, right to life, right to family life, environment, private law, civil procedure
JEL Classification: K13, K3, K32, K33, K4, K41, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation