We need more ambitious climate action, that’s clear at this stage, with evidence across the globe of the climate crisis. But sometimes, a bit of pressure is needed on governments for them take it seriously, as seen now in The Netherlands.
From massively reducing the use of coal to limiting livestock herd, the Dutch government has just announced a wide array of climate measures to lower the country’s greenhouse gas emissions — complying with a recent ruling from the supreme court.
Back in December, the Supreme Court in The Hague ordered the Dutch government to reduce its emissions by 15 megatons in 2020. The ruling was the result of a seven-year legal battle started by the NGO Urgenda Foundation.
“That is an enormous win,” Marjan Minnesma, the director of Urgenda, told The Guardian. “For many people this will give hope that it is possible to use the law as a strategic instrument for change.”
The Supreme Court had said the Dutch government had explicit duties to protect its citizens’ human rights in the face of climate change, asking for emissions to be reduced by at least 25% compared with 1990 levels by the end of 2020.
Now, the government has unveiled the roadmap to comply with the ruling, adopting the majority of the suggestions of Urgenda – which had developed a plan with other 800 civil society organizations from the Netherlands.
The country committed to reducing by 75% the capacity of its three coal-fired power stations, even possibly closing one of them. Cattle and pig herds will also be reduced, compensating farmers who drop their emissions levels, and energy efficiency will be encouraged.
The government will allocate specific funding to achieve the emissions reduction target. For example, 400 million euros will be given for household energy-saving measures and two billion euros for renewable energy projects such as rooftop solar, just to name a few sectors.
The set of measures, unveiled last Friday at the parliament, will likely create an economic stimulus for the country and help reduce nitrogen pollution, a growing problem in the Netherlands, the government said.
At the same time, the fact that the Dutch NGO was able to push forward with their claims for seven years and force the government to finally take action will help to inspire similar action in other countries, local lawmakers said.
“Without a doubt this should encourage climate lawsuits in other countries. It’s a shining example,” Green party politician Tom van der Lee said at the government’s presentation. “This package wouldn’t be there without an order from the highest court. Without that verdict, the government would have chosen a slower trajectory.”
The outcome was welcomed by climate activists, but they warned the government should also be thinking beyond 2020.
“The Netherlands now needs to lay out a strategy to reach net-zero by around the middle of this century,” Bob Ward, policy director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, told The Guardian.
The Paris Agreement, signed in 2015, asks countries to take sufficient climate action in order to avoid the temperature to increase over 2ºC. Nevertheless, that goal is far from being met. With the current climate pledges, temperature increase will likely reach between 3ºC and 4ºC.