Dec. 20 (UPI) -- The Netherlands must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25 percent below 1990 levels before the end of next year, the Dutch Supreme Court ruled Friday in widely hailed decision.
The high court's order upheld lower court decisions agreeing with climate change activists who argued that emissions reductions are a human rights issue that demands immediate and decisive action from the Dutch government.
The court ruled that as a signatory to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the Netherlands was duty-bound to "protect the right to life" and "take appropriate measures if it is aware of a real threat to the life or well-being of its citizens."
Dutch environmental agency PBL argued that reducing emissions by 25 percent by the end of 2020 -- which was once the Netherlands' stated goal -- was now "out of reach." Emissions last year were only 15 percent lower than 1990 levels and 2020 emissions are forecast to rise by 5 megatons due to strong economic growth.
Environmental advocacy group Urgenda, which first initiated the suit in 2013, praised the high court ruling for providing hope that governments that have been missing self-imposed emissions targets will now be forced to take action. Calling it a "groundbreaking decision," the group said it hopes governments will "act with urgency."
To comply with levels ordered by the high court, the Dutch government would likely have to close some coal-fired power plants that opened as recently as 2015 and 2016, Urgenda said.