Can courts force governments to act on Climate Change?

Holland  is a low-lying country seriously at risk of higher sea levels – a consequence of the world’s failure to check global warming.  It has an exposure similar to countries, such as Bangladesh, with  low lying coastal areas and coral island states.

Given its past experience with devastating floods (such as the flood of 1953 which caused heavy loss of life, ) the Dutch are skilled in controlling water levels. Yet their experience makes them sensitive to the need to reduce GHG emissions, not just in Holland but on a world scale. But despite its recognition of the likely consequences, Holland has not been a leader in in achieving a reduction of these emissions.

In 2015 a district  court in The Hague ordered the Dutch Government to reduce emissions.  The judge concluded:

  • “The state must do more to avert the imminent danger caused by climate change, in view of its duty of care to protect and improve the living environment,”

The Dutch Government appealed this decision, possibly because compliance would be a tax burden on its supporters . In dismissing the Appeal the Presiding Judge observed:

  • “The government has done too little to prevent the dangers of climate change and is doing too little to catch up.”
  • “There is a clear chance that the reduction will fall far short of the 25 percent goal, which is unacceptable.”
  • “The state is acting unlawfully and in violation of the duty of care.”

We conclude that the Dutch Judges considering the case were very much aware of the risks of inaction, and the need to prod the Dutch Government to be a leader at the international level.

Very recently ENjeu, a Montreal based environmental association, brought a similar law suit  in the Quebec Courts against the Government of Canada. The action claims that the Government is not doing enough to reduce emissions and it is Canadians in the age group 0-35 who will suffer the consequences.

4RG regards these conclusions and their impact on grandchildren as inevitable.  4RG  will continue to follow and report on the progress of that lawsuit.

Lead Image Courtesy of Construction Photography – a photo of a coal burning plant adjacent to Rotterdam.  The photo ironically presents the dilemmas of Governments:  how to generate electricity from fossil fuels but at the same time rely upon renewable energy.  So they continue to do both.

See also these blogs;

A Glimmer of Hope, Rising Sea Levels, US Action on Climate Change ,

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1 thought on “Can courts force governments to act on Climate Change?”

  1. I read the article in the Globe and Mail today “How the courts can help in the climate-change fight” I believe water rights were protected and pasturing rights were protected as a result of tragedy of the commons where individuals and corporations acted in their own interest contrary to common welfare by depleting or degrading a public resource.
    We are heading for a tragedy of the commons, worse that any other .
    I would gladly join a lawsuit against the present Ontario Government for dismantling the Cap and Trade and fighting the PAY TO POLLUTE being advanced by the federal government.

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