Declare: A Canadian Local weather Lawsuit Could Succeed Due to a Dutch Local weather Activist Victory

Claim: A Canadian Climate Lawsuit May Succeed Because of a Dutch Climate Activist Victory

Dutch farmers protest 2019, provoked by attempts to force a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on the Dutch agricultural sector. Image source Breitbart

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

The Dutch Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that the Netherlands had until 2020 to reduce CO2 emissions by 25%. That decision was upheld in a 2019 appeal.

Canadian paralegal Karinne Lantz believes the Dutch court's decision could have an impact on an ongoing Canadian climate action, as Canada signed the same treaties that got the Dutch government into trouble.

What a Dutch Supreme Court ruling on climate change and human rights means for Canada

October 4, 2020, 10:16 p.m. AEDT
Karinne Lantz
PhD student and assistant professor (part-time), Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University

Late last year, the Dutch Supreme Court issued a ruling that could affect countries around the world.

The Netherlands v Urgenda case found that insufficient action by a country against climate change can violate human rights. For the first time, a court set a legally binding target and deadline for a government to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 25 percent by the end of 2020 compared to 1990 levels.

Urgenda was a great victory for climate justice activists who have launched human rights suits to oblige governments to take more substantial and timely action against climate change. This landmark decision could prove influential in Canada, where similar cases are being resolved.

Litigation in Urgenda and Canada

At least four Canadian human rights-related climate cases are currently pending, including La Rose et al. Against Canada, where last week the federal government's efforts to shut down the lawsuit were discussed.

Why could Urgenda be relevant?

In Urgenda, the court concluded that climate change posed a “real and immediate” threat to the right to life that the Netherlands is legally obliged to address under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). While this convention is not binding in Canada, Section 7 of the Charter protects the right to life. Canada is also bound by international treaties that recognize the right to life.

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The Dutch government has no big plans to build more nuclear power plants and the timeframe is extremely short. Therefore, the Dutch are unlikely to meet the greenhouse gas obligation imposed by the court.

A recent attempt by the Dutch government to cut greenhouse gas emissions by sacrificing its agricultural sector ended badly for the government after efforts to force farmers to reduce their use of nitrate fertilizers sparked a confrontation between farmers and the Dutch army.

As for Canada, it would seem absurd for anyone to argue that global warming is an immediate threat to the Canadian way of life. Almost all of Canada's population lives in a narrow habitable zone north of the US border, as the rest of the country is too cold for most people.

But Canadian politicians have said some unwise things about climate change over the years, signing virtues that signal international treaties with onerous provisions. Canadian politicians only have themselves to blame if their stellar political ruthlessness comes back to bite them.

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