In their advisory opinion, published today, the Dutch Procurator General and Attorney General advise the members of the Supreme Court to uphold the Court of Appeal's decision in the Urgenda Climate case in which Urgenda prevailed. In these Supreme Court proceedings, Urgenda is represented by a NautaDutilh team headed by Freerk Vermeulen, working in close cooperation with Höcker lawyers.
The Urgenda Foundation and the State both believe that greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced, but disagree about the pace of those reductions. The State endorses an EU-wide target for 2020 of a 20% reduction compared to 1990 emissions. Given the serious risks of climate change, Urgenda demands at least a 25% reduction in Dutch emissions in 2020 compared to 1990. The Court of Appeal followed Urgenda's position, basing its judgment on the legal obligations of the State to protect the life of citizens in the Netherlands. These obligations are grounded in the European Convention on Human Rights.
Even though this subject has not escaped the attention of Dutch politicians, the Court of Appeal found that courts can nevertheless determine how far the State's human rights obligations extend. Courts must offer legal protection, also in cases against the government, and must thereby apply directly effective provisions of treaties to which the Netherlands is a party. Today the Procurator General has shown to agree with these findings of the Court of Appeal.
The decision of the Supreme Court is expected to be rendered on 20 December, 2019. The full advisory opinion can be found on the website of De Rechtspraak, with a summary as of paragraph 6.3.
Why is NautaDutilh involved?
NautaDutilh took on the matter on a pro bono basis because of its social relevance, combined with its legal complexity and the importance of the interests at stake. We also committed ourselves because this case is innovative and ground-breaking. It was the first in which a court held that a State breached a legal obligation towards its citizens by failing to take adequate climate action. It sparked a public debate, both in the Netherlands and abroad, about climate change and the possible legal remedies in that respect. It also inspired climate litigation against governments throughout the world.
The NautaDutilh team consists of Julius Cramwinckel, Stijn Franken, Pieter Fritschy, Robert van Galen, Jeroen Meijer, Florine Oosterloo, Julie Wassenberg and Freerk Vermeulen. The Höcker team consists of Koos van den Berg and Marijn Kingma.