Dutch Government’s new climate law met with mixed reaction

Published by Laura Matjusaityte on

June 28th, 2018

The Dutch Government has passed a new climate Law to come into effect in 2019 that it says will reduce emissions levels by up to 95 per cent by 2050.

Critics, however, argue that the draft legislation is nothing more than a “paper tiger” pushing any concrete action further down the line by setting the deadline three decades away.

The new law sets targets for the Dutch government to reduce greenhouse gas emission by almost 50 per cent by 2030 and by 95 per cent by 2050 compared to 1990 levels.

The legislation, the eight climate law enacted globally, also calls for a switch to 100 per cent carbon neutral electricity by 2050 and the introduction of a monitoring system to ensure targets are met.

The Dutch Government will also be obliged to present a new Climate Plan every five years, and host a National Climate Day every year to report on emission levels and, if necessary, introduce new measures to meet targets.

According to Jesse Klaver, leader of GroenLinks, a green political party, the law is as “ground-breaking for the Netherlands” as the Paris Agreement was “ground-breaking for the world”.

The Co-chairs of the European Green Party Monica Frassoni and Reinhard Bütikofer said that the move has raised the bar for climate action, urging other EU states to “follow the Dutch lead” and enact similar legislation.

Paper Tiger

The law is not as ambitious as it may first appear, however, according to Dennis van Berkel of Urgenda, a Dutch NGO that filed a lawsuit against the Dutch government in 2013 for failing to protect its citizens from the increasing dangers of climate change.

Mr Van Berkel told The Green News that the new law appears to be “little more than a paper tiger” only binding target is set for 2050, giving policymakers “ample time” to postpone immediate action.

Measures such as the establishment of short and medium-term carbon budgets and legally binding target for 2030 “were all deleted from the initial draft”, Mr Van Berkel said.

“What remains is unfortunately a largely symbolic act which only ensures that a yearly climate debate is organised which reports on the route towards the 2050 target, but which gives very little assurance that real action is taken,” he added.

Urgenda climate case Photo: Urgenda

The Dutch Climate Case

Urgenda based their case on Dutch Tort Law – which obliges the State to have “due care” for its citizens – and the fact that, by signing international treaties to tackle climate change, the State acknowledged that a failure to adequately reduce emissions would result in harm to the Dutch people.

The State, in turn, argued that it was not legally obliged to act as there is no legal norm regarding emissions reductions. The Government’s legal team also pointed out that, in the State’s opinion, the issue of emissions reductions is a political question and not one for the courts.

The three judges disagreed, however, ruling on 24 June 2015 that the State had a “serious duty of care to take measures to prevent” climate change and to “mitigate as quickly and as much as possible”.

The Dutch government has since appealed the verdict and the case is now back before the courts.

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Laura Matjusaityte

Laura is a first-year journalism student at DIT. She has an interest in the environment, veganism and literature.