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A landmark climate lawsuit filed by the Urgenda Foundation seeks to hold the Dutch Government responsible for failing to take sufficient measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause dangerous climate change. The Urgenda case is the first of its kind to be filed in Europe.

Urgenda launched the case in 2012, when it wrote to the Dutch government asking for action and made a call for ‘crowd pleading’ in which Dutch citizens could join as co-plaintiffs. The case was filed on 20 November 2013, and heard by the district court in The Hague on 14 April 2015.

The plaintiffs have alleged that the Dutch government has knowingly exposed its citizens to dangerous situations, in which they and their children will suffer serious hardship. The Dutch Supreme Court has previously held that the government can be held legally accountable for not taking sufficient action to prevent foreseeable harm. Urgenda and the co-plaintiffs argue that this also applies to climate change.

The plaintiffs have requested that the court:

1.) To declare that global warming of more than 2 degrees Celsius will lead to a violation of fundamental human rights worldwide.

2) To declare that the Dutch State is acting unlawfully by not contributing its proportional share to preventing a global warming of more than 2 degrees Celsius.

3.) To order the Dutch State to drastically reduce Dutch CO2 emissions even before 2020 to the level that has been determined by scientists to be in line with less than 2 degrees Celsius of global warming, that is, to reduce Dutch emissions by 40% by 2020 below 1990 levels.

  • The letter to the Dutch government of November 2012 is available here
  • A translation of the summons is available here
  • A legal summary, published in the Utrecht Journal of International and European Law is available here