THE HAGUE - A Dutch court on Wednesday ordered the state to slash greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25 per cent by 2020, after a group of citizens took their government to court.
"The court orders the State to reduce the overall volume of greenhouse gas emissions in such a way that they are at least 25 per cent less in 2020 compared to 1990," judge Hans Hofhuis said.
The ruling came after almost 900 Dutch citizens took their government to court in April in a bid to force a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to tackle climate change.
Marjan Minnesma, who heads environmental rights group Urgenda which brought the case, had said it wanted The Hague to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2020, compared to 1990 levels.
"The parties agree that the severity and magnitude of climate change make it necessary to take measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," the court said in its ruling.
"The State must do more to reverse the imminent danger caused by climate change, given also its duty to protect and improve the environment," the court said.
Effective control of Dutch emissions is a "one of the State's tasks," it said, adding that the cost of the reductions would not be "unacceptably high".
The Amsterdam-based Urgenda said the case was the first in Europe in which citizens attempted to hold the state responsible for its potentially devastating inaction and the first in the world in which human rights are used as a legal basis to protect citizens against climate change.
The plaintiffs had asked the judges to rule that a rise in global temperatures over over two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) would be a human rights infraction.
The international community has agreed to peg global warming to 2C over pre-industrial levels.
Lawsuits against governments and companies have increasingly been seen as a way to press for action against climate change over the last decade.
Countries are to publish their own undertakings to reduce greenhouse gas emissions ahead of a hoped-for global deal to be agreed in Paris in December.
The 28-member European Union has said it will reduce emissions by 40 per cent compared to 1999 levels by 2030, while the world's second-largest polluter after China, the United States, has said wants to reduce emissions by between 26-28 per cent by 2025.