As It Happens

Dutch court orders government to cut emissions, cites 'imminent danger' of climate change

In what's being called the first court ruling of its kind, a judge in the Netherlands has ordered the country to fight climate change, and reduce emissions by 25 percent.
Urgenda Foundation director Marjan Minnesma hugs lawyer Roger Cox, left, after a Dutch court ordered the government to cut the country's greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25 percent by 2020. (Associated Press)

A court in The Netherlands has ruled that climate change poses so much of a danger that the government must reduce emissions by 25 percent in five years. 

It was the surprise outcome of a lawsuit brought by environmentalists who were upset that the Dutch government had only committed to a 14 to 16 percent reduction by 2020. 

Marjan Minnesma is the founder and director of the environmental group Urgenda, which launched the lawsuit. She tells As It Happens co-host Carol Off about the scene in the court when the ruling was announced.

"Everyone was yelling, clapping hands, kissing, crying. It was really overwhelming," she says.

The plaintiffs argued that citizens needed to be protected from the devastating effects of climate change, including rising sea levels that could threaten The Netherlands.

Minnesma says the judge agreed with evidence that outlines how a two-degree rise in temperature could put Dutch citizens at risk.

"The judge said: 'Yeah, i checked all the science that you brought in and you are right and this is such a big problem that the state should do what's necessary to protect its citizens.'"

The Dutch government has not said whether it will appeal the ruling.

Minnesma says the success of this case could lead to other court challenges around the world, including Canada. 

"We are being followed by people all over. I think this is an enormous help for them to make the change and start a court case against their state and ask for the protections that are needed."

Here is a video from the courtroom of the ruling being read.