The Current

Dutch climate change ruling has many hoping Canada follows suit

For the first time ever, a court has ordered a government to do a better job of protecting citizens from climate change. The case in question is playing out in the Netherlands, but could set a major precedent for governments around the world.
Together with more that 900 co-plaintifs, Urgenda Foundation director Marjan Minnesma on behalf of Urgenda initiated the Dutch climate case in which they claim the Dutch State is violating their rights by not taking sufficient actions against climate change. (Chantal Bekker/Urgenda)
Urgenda Foundation director Marjan Minnesma, right, and 11-year-old fellow plaintiff Anica van Staa, left. The Dutch court has ordered the government to cut the country's greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25 percent by 2020. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

There's nothing strange about environmentalists asking a government to cut carbon emissions. But in the Netherlands, one activist group has flipped that request on its head. Instead of taking to the streets, the Dutch organization Urgenda took their government to court. 

" We said the state should take care of it's citizens. There is a duty of care and the science is very clear that climate change is a big problem...  And the judge said, "yeah I checked all the science you brought in and you are right  the state should do what is necessary to protect its citizens."  -   Marjan Minnesma , head of Urgenda  

​Marjan Minnesma spoke to our colleagues at As It Happens. Have a listen:

Dutch court orders government to cut emissions, cites 'imminent danger' of climate change 6:45

Urgenda's successful lawsuit against the Dutch government is a legal first ... but likely not the last of its kind.  The group has put all of its legal documents online, and similar lawsuits have already popped up in Belgium and Norway.

But how much weight could the decision carry here in Canada?  

For a closer look, we were joined by two people.  

  • James Coleman is an assistant professor at the University of Calgary's Faculty of Law and Haskayne School of Business. He was in our Calgary studio.  
  • Dianne Saxe is an environmental lawyer at Saxe Law Office, and she was in our Toronto studio.

This segment was produced by The Current's Pacinthe Mattar and Marc Apollonio. 

Related Links

Urgenda Wins Climate Case - Urgenda Foundation

Parsing the Dutch decision - Alberta Oil Magazine

Dutch govt ordered to cut carbon emissions - The Guardian