Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Nithin Coca headshot

Historic Climate Court Decision in the Netherlands


Big news from the Netherlands, where a court just decided that the government was not doing enough to combat climate change. Yep. You read that right.

"The state must do more to reverse the imminent danger caused by climate change, given also its duty to protect and improve the environment,” the court said in its ruling.

The court’s decision is being seen as not only a victory for environmentalists, but also for human rights advocates worldwide. This is the first attempt by European citizens to hold the state accountable for potentially devastating inaction on climate change. It’s also the first case in the world in which human rights are used as a legal basis to protect citizens against climate change, according to the Urgenda Foundation.

“This makes it crystal clear that climate change is a huge problem that needs to be dealt with much more effectively, and that states can no longer afford inaction," said Marjan Minnesma, a Dutch citizen and one of the plaintiffs in the case. "States are meant to protect their citizens, and if politicians will not do this of their own accord, then the courts are there to help.”

The logic behind the court case was, actually, quite simple. As Minnesma stated above, governments have an obligation to protect us, its citizens, from dangers. And few dangers have as widespread, potentially devastating impacts as climate change. Attempts to both plan for, and mitigate, emissions require incredible coordination between governments, businesses and citizens.

You would think the Netherlands would get it. Of all the countries in Europe, it is one of the most vulnerable. It is a very low-lying nation, with significant land-area below sea level, leaving it highly susceptible to even a small sea-level rise. Moreover, one of its national symbols is the windmill, showing its place as an early-adopter and developer of wind-technology.

Yet, the Netherlands is lagging behind its neighbors in installing clean energy, and in cutting carbon emissions. The decision, which can be appealed, would force the country to cut its emissions

Now, it is hard to imagine that the U.S. Supreme Court's next landmark decision will force the country to tackle climate change head-on (especially after its atrocious, pro-coal industry decision just a few days ago that will allow for higher mercury emissions). But one can dream, no? And, as advocates plan to file similar court cases in countries including Belgium and the Philippines, don't be surprised if you hear about another country's court following the Netherlands path.

This can only be the start of something good.

Image Source: Pixabay

Nithin Coca headshotNithin Coca

Nithin Coca is a freelance journalist who focuses on environmental, social, and economic issues around the world, with specific expertise in Southeast Asia.

Read more stories by Nithin Coca

More stories from New Activism