Dutch citizens sue government over climate inaction, win

We’ve tried rallying. We’ve tried talking. We’ve tried screaming. We’ve tried lobbying. Maybe it’s time to start suing.

Big news out of the Hague on Wednesday: a suit brought up by 886 Dutch citizens against their government for failing to address climate change to the satisfaction of the citizenry has succeeded.

The judge ruled not only that the Dutch government’s inaction on climate change was illegal, but that the government would be required to cut carbon emissions by 25% in five years.

The ruling did not come easy: the hearings were a product of a 2 1/2 year legal campaign to address the issue. It was clear that the plaintiffs were overjoyed by the verdict. Their counsel, Roger Cox, told the Guardian “As the verdict was being read out, I actually had tears in my eyes…it was an emotional moment.”


“As the verdict was being read out, I actually had tears in my eyes…it was an emotional moment.”
-Roger Cox, Counsel for plaintiffs

The implications of this landmark case are staggering: courtrooms around the world now have a precedent to find in favor of citizens concerned with their governments’ apathy or lethargy in dealing with climate change.

The case has already inspired several imitators, most prominently in Belgium, where more than 10,000 citizens have signed on as plaintiffs to push their government to take more proactive measures to combat climate change.

It will be interesting to see if a similar case can gain traction in the United States, where the constitution’s “separation of powers” may limit any policy-setting by a member of the judiciary. One thing is for sure, any news of progress is always good.

Read more on this story here.

If you would like to support the Belgian “Klimaatzaak” (“climate case”), click here for English, hier in het Nederlands, ici en Français.