When you just want to go one day without hearing the “c” word

Dutch Citizens Taking the Climate Change Challenge to the Next Step

By Maddy Simpkins

Leading a secure, comfortable life is quite simple to achieve here in The Netherlands. Whether you’re a student or a long-term resident, it’s apparent that the country is more than capable of supporting our unique lifestyles effortlessly. And with a national infrastructure so sound, we’re surely protected from abrupt, life-threatening problems, right?

Well, one foundation in The Netherlands disagrees. The Urgenda Foundation first called upon the Dutch government back in 2012, asking them to take more significant measures to solve the climate crisis. Following this letter to the state officials, 900 citizens could file themselves as co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit to follow. On 14 April, 2015 the Hague-based district court opened its doors to hear these unprecedented arguments by citizens in a judicial setting. Urgenda Foundation’s Climate Case recently sparked controversy because it is the first case in Europe in which citizens are attempting to prosecute the government for their inaction. The Climate Case demands an upheaval of national climate policy, requesting from the state three central commitments:

“1. To declare that global warming of more than 2 degrees Celsius will lead to a violation of fundamental human rights worldwide 2. To declare that the Dutch State is acting unlawfully by not contributing its proportional share to prevent a global warming of more than 2 degrees Celsius 3. To order the Dutch State to drastically reduce Dutch CO2 emissions even before 2020, to the level that has been determined by scientists to be in line with less than 2 degrees Celsius of global warming, that is, to reduce Dutch emissions by 2020 below 1990 levels.” (Urgenda.nl/en/climate-case)

The concept of the two degree buffer which marks the dangerous climate change threshold was initially acknowledged during the UNFCCC 2009 held in Copenhagen. Since then, global emissions have been steadily rising and will continue to do so in the coming years. If emission reduction is not taken more seriously, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports, there will be a number of detrimental expenses including but not limited; to the obstruction of ecosystem adaptation, global food production will be threatened, and developing countries may not be able to progress sustainably. 

The Netherlands is a forward-thinking nation and has already invested millions in clean, renewable energy sources. Its people also swear by countless sustainable practises other countries might look to adopt, such as the cycling movement, solar-powered bike paths, and eco-effective buildings. However, The Netherlands’ global warming contribution is immense, with carbon dioxide emissions per capita ranking the highest in the world. But like most industrialized nations, when corporations gain government-granted authority over the air, water, and soil, carbon dioxide emissions soar as a result. There is reason to believe The Netherlands’ environmental protection policy is insufficient to prevent dangerous climate change. Already, climate change has posed a threat to The Netherlands – various negative effects can be observed from coastal flooding to rising temperatures and an overall decline in biodiversity. However unfortunately, the scope of issues this country and many others are yet to face is fully reprehensible.


If we can learn one thing from the Dutch citizens united with Urgenda, it’s that failure is no longer an option. If implementing limitations on our governments with judiciary intervention in order to avert climate change is our last resort, then we must dare to accept the challenge.

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