Dutch Government Orders Itself to Cut Emissions 25% by 2020
Recently, in the Netherlands, a group of some 900 people have brought suit against the Dutch government in an attempt to force the state to reduce its emissions at a quicker rate than is currently outlined under its own policies. The current policies were scheduled to have reduced government emissions 17% from 1990 levels by 2020, which the activists behind the lawsuit believed was not doing enough to effect actual change.
The suit is a first in several ways, though certainly not the first time a government judge has ruled against the government in terms of the law. The judge made this ruling on the belief that the Dutch government has the responsibility to do everything in its power to protect citizens from climate change. This is particularly important to the Dutch, whose country is largely below sea level. Therefore, the judge believed that by the government contributing to climate change in ways that further melt the ice caps and raise sea levels, they were in fact contributing to the harm of the Dutch people.
Also read: Dutch Government Goes Offline
Meanwhile, there are similar lawsuits going on in Norway and Belgium, with citizens suing the government for very similar reasons. Although International precedent is not always overtly important in cases of such gravity, rulings in other countries on the same issue can often play into the minds of sitting judges.
Could Be Difficult to Enforce
The court now finds itself in a predicament as to enforcing the ruling it has made. After all, how do they go about fining a government agency for non-compliance? Indeed, how deeply does this ruling go, in terms of outlining exactly how the government should reduce emissions? It turns out, not too deeply. But that doesn’t seem to matter to the activists who fought for this victory, since they see the symbolism as the most important aspect of it. After all, now even the government must answer to the cause of a greener society, and it cannot, at that point, allow regulations which do not push in this direction or otherwise fail to push toward the goal of reduced emissions.
A longstanding problem in the world has been that even if some enlightened countries reduce their emissions down to zero, the rest of the world has to be on board. Neither the Netherlands nor any other country where these lawsuits has a chance are highly industrialized zones anymore. Therefore their reduction is not as valuable as a reduction in somewhere like the United States, Mexico, or China, places where there are significant emissions as well as governments somewhat lax on them. Thus while this victory and those that may be to come are important victories, global emissions reduction will be much harder to achieve.
Image from Shutterstock and ahsan_therock.