Dutch firms NautaDutilh and Höcker are celebrating today after securing a historic Supreme Court climate change ruling ordering the government to accelerate the country's emissions-reduction timetable. The firms were representing non-profit group Urgenda which argued that the justice system had a duty to protect the human rights of Dutch citizens against the dangers posed by climate change.
The Supreme Court found that the Dutch government must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% compared to 1990 levels by the end of 2020.
In a joint statement, the two firms said it was the first case in the world in which a national court had issued a specific order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a government on the basis of human rights.
Amsterdam-based boutique Höcker has been representing Urgenda from the outset of the case with NautaDutilh joining the legal team for the Supreme Court hearing.
Höcker’s Koos van den Berg said: “The courts cannot solve climate change, but courageous judges can order politicians to assume responsibility when they cannot justify their inaction with scientific and legally valid arguments. That is what the Supreme Court did today.”
Freerk Vermeulen, lead counsel on NautaDutilh's team, said the firm had offered its services on a pro bono basis.
He added: “The climate has become a topic of discussion by believers and non-believers, dreamers, table bangers and naysayers. This case is based solely on proof. The members of the court thoroughly assessed the proven facts and risks and found the Dutch government's inaction to be unlawful."
Dr. David Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, described the ruling as the most important climate change court decision in the world so far.
He added: “This is a huge victory for billions of people vulnerable to the devastating impacts of the climate crisis and a timely nail in the coffin of the fossil fuel industry.”
A survey by Allen & Overy of company directors published earlier this month found that climate change risk was moving up company boardroom agendas across the world.
The Dutch government will respond to the ruling in the New Year.