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Dutch Urgenda climate change case inspires other Europeans

Several cases inspired by the Urgenda case have now been filed. For example, by the Portuguese, concerning widespread forest fires, Swiss women of a somewhat respectable age (known as the ‘KlimaSeniorrinnen’) who suffer from the heat, and the mayor of a French city situated by the sea who fears the rising sea levels. All cases in which their own countries are being sued and on which the European Court of Human Rights has been asked to give a decision.

Is it a violation of human rights if a country does too little to stop climate change? That is the question before the European Court of Human Rights. The Netherlands had a world first in 2019 with the Urgenda climate case. ‘People looked at the Netherlands and saw that the Supreme Court then used a European treaty to arrive at the ruling’, Barkhuysen said in Dutch TV programme EenVandaag when asked about the climate cases now pending in Strasbourg.
But does the success in the Urgenda case automatically imply that the European Court will go along with the plaintiffs from Portugal, Switzerland and France? According to Barkhuysen, Professor of Constitutional and Administrative Law in Leiden, that is not easy to predict. ‘What matters is causality: is there a clear link between CO2 emissions and the complaint – in these cases forest fires, health deterioration of the elderly, and the rising sea level.’
That connection, he says, was also a point of contention in the Urgenda case. ‘Some said then that such a link could not be made, but the Dutch Supreme Court decided otherwise. The question now is how Strasbourg will view this.’

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