Landmark climate change judgment: Dutch government again comprehensively defeated


On 20 December 2019, the highest court (Supreme Court) in the Netherlands dismissed the Dutch Government’s final appeal in the landmark climate change case, Urgenda Foundation v The Netherlands. This concluded a 7-year legal process, during which the Dutch government strenuously opposed legal scrutiny but its arguments were consistently and comprehensively rejected. The Supreme Court confirmed the decisions of the two lower courts, namely that the Dutch Government must reduce greenhouse gas emissions emitted in the Netherlands by at least 25% by the end of 2020 (relative to 1990 levels).

Our report here on the Court of Appeal’s judgment in October 2018 conveniently summarises the arguments. Pending an English translation of the Supreme Court’s written judgment, here is a clip of the short oral version of the judgment of the Supreme Court with English subtitles.


This judgement is notable in many respects. One of these is the resilience of the claimants in pursuing a case of this nature against a European government through the whole legal process. There are several organisations in various parts of the world with the knowledge and commitment to take climate actions into the courts and they may be heartened by this success. It is also worth noting the nature of some of the Dutch government’s arguments. Many were more suited to a political or commercial debate than a court of law. When stress tested in these courts of law, the government’s arguments failed.

Article co-authored by Jessica Buttanshaw.