In October 2019, The Hague Court of Appeal rendered an important judgment in the Urgenda case. Urgenda is a Dutch foundation fighting for a sustainable society, which started a legal case to force the Dutch government to adopt more stringent climate policies. In that case, The Hague Court of Appeal found a violation of Articles 2 (right to life) and 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and ordered the Dutch State to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25 per cent by the end of 2020. Inspired by this judgment, the NGO Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands), together with several related organisations, has taken yet another step in climate change litigation in the Netherlands by summoning Shell, one of the largest oil companies in the world. Although Milieudefensie is petitioning a company instead of a State, the claim is the same as the one against the State in the Urgenda case. Milieudefensie requests the court to order Shell to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. This claim is founded on the argument that Shell is guilty of hazardous negligence and violates human rights because of its (lack of a) climate policy. This argument shows that Milieudefensie has not only taken a further step in climate change litigation, but also contributes to the trend of increasingly holding private actors accountable for human rights violations. In this blog, I discuss Milieudefensie’s claim in more detail, and analyse whether, and how, human rights arguments can be used to impose greenhouse gas reduction orders on private actors. Continue reading
Writing something about the Urgenda judgement (Rechtbank Den Haag 24 June 2015, ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2015:7145) might seem abundant at this point. After all, a lot of literature about the judgement has already been published. Is the judgement really so special? That can, with good reason, not be denied.
The Urgenda Foundation is the organisation for sustainability and innovation which aims to together with companies, governments, civil organisations and individuals, make the Netherlands sustainable more quickly. This foundation has filed a civil case against the State, because according the foundation while the government has recognized the urgency of the climate problems, it has taken insufficient action to prevent dangerous climate change. In the Urgenda judgement the State, on the basis of the standard of due care observed in society as set out in article 6:162 of the Dutch Civil Code, is subject to a periodic penalty payment ordered to reduce the annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2010 by at least 25 percent compared to the 1990 levels. The relevant international provisions for the case cannot be relied on at law at the national judge, in the sense that they are unsuitable to be directly applicable as positive law in the national legal system and they are therefore not binding on all persons as provided in articles 93 and 94 of the Dutch Constitutions. However, the court applies the so-called consequential effect. The latter means that the court, in applying the national open standards, such as the standard of due care observed in society, takes into account international provisions that are not binding on all persons as provided in articles 93 and 94 of the Dutch Constitution.