More than 880 Dutch citizens have filed a class-action lawsuit against their government for its failure to take action on climate change, The Guardian reported.
Hearings are scheduled to start in the Hague tomorrow, marking the “first case in the world to use existing human rights and tort law to hold a government responsible for failing to reduce carbon emissions fast enough.”
Those involved in the suit are trying to force the Dutch government to “implement policies to reduce its emissions by between 25% and 40% below 1990 levels by 2020,” the target established for develop nations by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The lawsuit was brought by environmental activist group Urgenda. Member Dennis van Berkel told The Guardian, “We wanted to show that this is not just one organisation that had an idea but it’s a broad movement of people who are very concerned about climate change and believe it’s necessary to sue the state over it.”
Among those acting as plaintiffs on behalf of Urgenda are national weatherman Reinier van de Berg and Joos Ockels, whose late husband, Wubbo Ockels, was the first Dutch citizen in space. Wubbo founded the renewable energy foundation Happy Energy during his retirement, and gave an impassioned speech about climate change from his death bed last year.
“What is wrong with our mindset?” he said. “Our earth has cancer. I have cancer, too. If only I could take you to space, you would see that this is your only planet; you have no spare.”
Ambassador for the World Wildlife Federation and famous Dutch DJ Gregor Salto is also one of the plaintiffs. “Everybody is waiting for the government to take action, but the government has done so little,” he said. “If the case succeeds, they will be forced to take action. If you look at Denmark, they’ve managed [to reduce emissions], so why can’t we? I want the Dutch to lead the way in this.”
Urgenda began its fight in 2012 when it wrote a letter to the Dutch government, telling it that they would head to court if it didn’t take action on carbon emissions. Now they hope that their efforts will start a chain reaction of other countries mounting similar campaigns. In Belgium, lawyers, along with more than 8,500 citizen supporters, are currently working on a case against their government.
Maybe a similar case could do some good in the United States, too. Given that the vast majority of Republicans in Congress deny climate change to protect their fossil fuel industry donors, it’s unlikely the government is going to accomplish anything without being forced by the courts.