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The State of the Netherlands v. Urgenda Foundation: Ruling of the Court of Appeal of The Hague (9 October 2018)

  • Benoit Mayer

Abstract

On 9 October 2018, the Court of Appeal of The Hague (the Netherlands) upheld the District Court’s decision in the case of Urgenda, thus confirming the obligation of the Netherlands to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 25% by 2020 compared with levels in 1990. This case raised some of the thorniest issues in climate law. As the Netherlands is responsible for only a tiny fraction of global GHG emissions, is it right for a court to hold that a national emissions reduction mitigation target is necessary to prevent dangerous climate change and its impact on human rights? If so, how can this target be determined? The District Court and the Court of Appeal of The Hague have provided inspiring responses, although they are perhaps not entirely convincing.

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Copyright

Footnotes

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The Chinese University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law (Hong Kong).

Email: bmayer@cuhk.edu.hk.

The author is thankful to three anonymous TEL reviewers for insightful comments and advice.

Footnotes

References

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1 By-laws of Urgenda, Art. 2, as cited in the District Court of The Hague (DC), Urgenda Foundation v. The State of the Netherlands, Case No. C/09/456689 / HA ZA 13-1396, 24 June 2015, para. 2.2, available at: https://elaw.org/system/files/urgenda_0.pdf (Urgenda 1). Quotations are from the translation provided by the Court.

2 Urgenda 1, para. 2.6.

3 See the letter of the State Secretary for Infrastructure and the Environment of 11 Dec. 2012, cited ibid., para. 2.7.

4 Ibid., para. 5.1.

5 Court of Appeal of The Hague (CA), The State of the Netherlands (Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment) v. Urgenda Foundation, C/09/456689 / HA ZA 13-1396, 9 Oct. 2018, available at: https://uitspraken.rechtspraak.nl/inziendocument?id=ECLI:NL:GHDHA:2018:2610 (Urgenda 2). Quotations are from the translation provided by the Court.

6 See Government of the Netherlands, ‘State to Bring Cassation Proceedings in Urgenda Case’, 16 Nov. 2018, available at: https://www.government.nl/latest/news/2018/11/16/state-to-bring-cassation-proceedings-in-urgenda-case.

7 Statement by Ivo de Zwaan on behalf of the Netherlands during the Multilateral Assessment of the Third Biennial Report of the Netherlands, held in Katowice (Poland), 7 Dec. 2018, available at: https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/transparency-and-reporting/reporting-and-review-under-the-convention/national-communications-and-biennial-reports-annex-i-parties/multilateral-assessment/multilateral-assessment-of-third-biennial-reports/third-multilateral-11. Additional measures under consideration include the anticipated shutdown of a coal-fired power plant.

8 Rome (Italy), 4 Nov. 1950, in force 3 Sept. 1953, available at: http://www.echr.coe.int/pages/home.aspx?p=basictexts.

9 See n. 106 below.

10 Numerous pending cases raise similar questions: e.g., ENvironnement JEUnesse v. Canada; VZW Klimaatzaak v. Belgium; Klimaatzaak v. Belgium; and Ali v. Pakistan. Information on these and other cases can be found on Climate Change Litigation Databases developed by the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School (United States), available at: http://columbiaclimatelaw.com; and in the database of ‘Climate Change Law of the World’, developed by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom), available at: http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/climate-change-laws-of-the-world.

11 United Nations (UN) Climate Change, ‘Netherlands National Inventory Report 2018’, 13 Apr. 2018, p. 26, available at: https://unfccc.int/documents/65703, for data excluding land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF). MT CO2-eq indicates GHG emissions the warming effect of which is equivalent to that of a megatonne of carbon dioxide.

12 Ibid., p. 28.

13 Ibid., pp. 6 and 87.

14 Per capita emissions in the EU are estimated at 8.4 T CO2-eq/year in 2016, based on the EU’s GHG emissions without LULUCF (reported in UN Climate Change, ‘European Union National Inventory Report 2018’, 15 May 2018, p. vii, available at: https://unfccc.int/documents/65886), and a population of 511.8 million (according to Eurostat, ‘Population and Population Change Statistics’, July 2017, available at: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Population_and_population_change_statistics. See also Urgenda 2, para. 26.

15 Netherlands National Inventory Report 2018, n. 11 above, p. 25 and passim.

16 Ibid., p. 70 (Table 3.1).

17 See UNFCCC Secretariat, ‘Compilation of Economy-wide Emission Reduction Targets to be Implemented by Parties included in Annex I to the Convention’ (4–15 June 2014), UN Doc. FCCC/SBSTA/2014/INF.6, para. 11, available at: https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/docs/2014/sbsta/eng/inf06.pdf.

18 Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, in Decision 1/CMP.8, ‘Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol pursuant to its Article 3, para. 9 (the Doha Amendment)’ (8 Dec. 2012), UN Doc. FCCC/KP/CMP/2012/13/Add.1, Annex. While the Doha Amendment has not yet entered into force, it was ratified by the EU and its Member States on 21 Dec. 2017.

19 Kyoto (Japan), 11 Dec. 1997, in force 16 Feb. 2005, available at: http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/convkp/kpeng.pdf.

20 UNFCCC Secretariat, n. 17 above, para. 12; Doha Amendment, n. 18 above, note 7 under revised Annex B.

21 It has repeatedly been pointed out, however, that the EU has no institutional mechanism to assess the fulfilment of the condition associated with its 30% emissions reduction target: see, e.g., UNFCCC Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), 49th Session, ‘Multilateral Assessment Questions and Answers: The European Union’ (Sept.–Nov. 2018), p. 7 (question posed by Brazil), available at: https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/EU.pdf.

22 See Latvia et al., ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contribution of the EU and its Member States’, 6 Mar. 2015, available at: https://www4.unfccc.int/sites/ndcstaging/PublishedDocuments/Latvia%20First/LV-03-06-EU%20INDC.pdf.

23 Paris (France), 12 Dec. 2015, in force 4 Nov. 2016, available at: http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php.

24 Decision No. 406/2009/EC on the Effort of Member States to Reduce their Greenhouse Gas Emissions to Meet the Community’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Commitments up to 2020 [2009] OJ L 140/136 (Effort Sharing Decision), recital 8.

25 Directive 2003/87/EC establishing a Scheme for Greenhouse Gas Emission Allowance Trading within the Community and amending Council Directive 96/61/EC [2003] OJ L 275/32.

26 European Commission, ‘7th National Communication & 3rd Biennial Report from the European Union under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)’, Dec. 2017, p. 237, available at: http://unfccc.int/files/national_reports/annex_i_natcom/submitted_natcom/application/pdf/459381_european_union-nc7-br3-1-nc7_br3_combined_version.pdf.

27 Directive 2009/29/EC amending Directive 2003/87/EC so as to Improve and Extend the Greenhouse Gas Emission Allowance Trading Scheme of the Community [2009] OJ L 140/63, recital 5. The year 2005 is used as the baseline in EU climate law because estimates are more accurate than those for 1990.

28 N. 24 above.

29 Ibid., Annex II.

30 Netherlands National Inventory Report 2018, n. 11 above.

31 Urgenda 1, para. 4.26 (based on domestic policy documents). See also The Netherlands, ‘Second Biennial Report under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’, 31 Dec. 2015, p. 54, available at: https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/the_netherlands_second_biennial_report.pdf (projecting a decrease in GHG emissions of 18% by 2020 (1990 basis) with existing measures, or 19% with additional measures).

32 Netherlands National Inventory Report 2018, n. 11 above, pp. 26 and 63.

33 Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (CBS), ‘CO2 Emissions in 2017 the Same as in 1990’, 10 Sept. 2018, available at: https://www.cbs.nl/en-gb/news/2018/37/co2-emissions-in-2017-the-same-as-in-1990.

34 Urgenda 1, para. 3.1(6).

35 New York, NY (US), 9 May 1992, in force 21 Mar. 1994, available at: http://www.unfccc.int, in particular Art. 4.2(a) and (b).

36 N. 19 above.

37 N. 18 above.

38 Urgenda 1, para. 4.42. See also Mayer, B., ‘The Relevance of the No-Harm Principle to Climate Change Law and Politics’ (2016) 19(1) Asia Pacific Journal of Environmental Law, pp. 79104 .

39 N. 8 above, Arts 2 and 8.

40 The Constitution of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (2008), published by the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Constitutional Affairs and Legislation Division in collaboration with the Translation Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Art. 21, available at: https://www.government.nl/documents/regulations/2012/10/18/the-constitution-of-the-kingdom-of-the-netherlands-2008 (according to which ‘[i]t shall be the concern of the authorities to keep the country habitable and to protect and improve the environment’).

41 Burgerlijk Wetboek (Dutch Civil Code), Book 5, Section 37 (prohibition of nuisance).

42 See IPCC (B. Metz et al. (eds)), Climate Change 2007: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Cambridge University Press, 2007).

43 Urgenda 1, para. 4.42.

44 Ibid., para. 4.45. This aspect of the judgment was criticized, among others, in A. Tabau & C. Cournil, ‘New Perspectives for Climate Justice: District Court of The Hague, 24 June 2015, Urgenda Foundation versus the Netherlands’ (2015) 12(3–4) Journal for European Environmental & Planning Law, pp. 221–40, at 229.

45 Urgenda 1, para. 4.36.

46 See Burgerlijk Wetboek, n. 41 above, Book 6, Art. 162. See Urgenda 1, n. 1 above, paras 4.46 and 4.55.

47 Urgenda 1, para. 4.65.

48 Ibid., para. 4.14.

49 Ibid., para. 4.17.

50 Ibid., para. 4.20.

51 Annex I of the UNFCCC, n. 35 above, contains a list of developed countries with more stringent obligations under the UNFCCC.

52 Urgenda 1, para. 4.29.

53 Ibid., para. 5.1.

54 Urgenda 2, para. 31.

55 Ibid., para. 32.

56 Ibid., para. 35.

57 Ibid., para. 36.

58 Ibid., para. 41.

59 Ibid., para. 45.

60 See, in particular, ibid., para. 63 (on the precautionary principle).

61 Ibid., para. 76.

62 Ibid., para. 71.

63 Ibid., para. 75.

64 See Netherlands National Inventory Report 2018, n. 11 above, p. 28. See also Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (CBS), ‘Greenhouse Gas Emissions Slightly Down in 2017’, 9 May 2018, available at: https://www.cbs.nl/en-gb/news/2018/19/greenhouse-gas-emissions-slightly-down-in-2017 (for a preliminary estimate of 2017 GHG emissions at 193 MT CO2-eq, representing a reduction of 13.4% below 1990 emissions as previously reported. All data are without LULUCF).

65 See Decision 15/CP.17, ‘Revision of the UNFCCC Reporting Guidelines on Annual Inventories for Parties included in Annex I to the Convention’ (11 Dec. 2011), UN Doc. FCCC/CP/2011/9/Add.2.

66 See Netherlands National Inventory Report 2015, 31 Mar. 2016, p. 25, available at: http://www.pbl.nl/en/publications/greenhouse-gas-emissions-in-the-netherlands-1990%E2%80%932013-national-inventory-report-2015. The application of the 2006 methodology ascribes a higher global warming potential value to methane, emissions of which have rapidly decreased in the Netherlands since 1990. This was discussed briefly in Urgenda 2, paras 21 and 47.

67 See, e.g., CBS, n. 33 above.

68 UNFCCC Secretariat, ‘Report on the Technical Review of the Third Biennial Report of the Netherlands’, 1 Aug. 2018, UN Doc. FCCC/TRR.3/NLD, p. 18, available at: https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/trr.3_NLD.pdf (emissions without LULUCF). See also The Netherlands, ‘Third Biennial Report under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’, 31 Dec. 2017, pp. 67–8, available at: http://unfccc.int/files/national_reports/biennial_reports_and_iar/submitted_biennial_reports/application/pdf/625803941_netherlands-br3-1-the_netherlands_third_biennial_report_under_the_unfccc.pdf.

69 The Netherlands, ibid., p. 85 (noting that GHG emissions in 2020 could range from 163 to 181 MT CO2-eq (90% reliability interval). This corresponds with a reduction from 19 to 17%. All data are without LULUCF).

70 UNFCCC Secretariat, n. 68 above, para. 88.

71 On the measures under consideration, see n. 7 above.

72 Urgenda 1, para. 3.3.

73 Ibid., para. 3.3.

74 See ibid., para. 4.5 (noting that the State ‘defers to the court’s opinion’ on the question); but see also Urgenda 2, para. 37 (according to which ‘the State argued, as understood by the Court, that Urgenda cannot act on behalf of future generations of Dutch nationals’).

75 See Dutch Civil Code, n. 41 above, Art. 305a.

76 See Urgenda 1, para. 4.92; Urgenda 2, para. 37.

77 Urgenda 2, para. 38 (citing the legislative history behind Book 3, Art. 305a of the Dutch Civil Code, n. 41 above).

78 See section 2.2 above.

79 See section 2.3 above.

80 Urgenda 1, paras 4.36 and 4.38–4.39.

81 Ibid., para. 4.51.

82 IPCC, Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Chang (IPCC, 2015), pp. 40–4, 60–2.

83 Ibid., p. 67.

84 Ibid., pp. 67–73. See also Boyle, A., ‘Climate Change, the Paris Agreement and Human Rights’ (2018) 67(4) International & Comparative Law Quarterly, pp. 759777 ; Mayer, B., ‘Human Rights in the Paris Agreement’ (2016) 6(1–2) Climate Law, pp. 109117 .

85 See, e.g., Reimann, L. et al., ‘Mediterranean UNESCO World Heritage at Risk from Coastal Flooding and Erosion Due to Sea-level Rise’ (2018) 9 Nature Communication online articles , article no. 4161 (2018), available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-06645-9.

86 See Mayer, B., The International Law on Climate Change (Cambridge University Press, 2018) ; Mayer, n. 38 above. See also Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, adopted by the UN Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), 3–14 June 1992, UN Doc. A/CONF.151/26/Rev.1 (Vol. I), Principle 2, available at: http://www.un.org/documents/ga/conf151/aconf15126-1annex1; International Court of Justice (ICJ), Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, Advisory Opinion of 8 July 1996, ICJ Reports 1996, p. 226, para. 29.

87 See, e.g., Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), 5 June 1992, in force 29 Dec. 1993, available at: https://www.cbd.int/convention/text.

88 See UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Montego Bay (Jamaica), 10 Dec. 1982, in force 16 Nov. 1994, Art. 192, available at: www.un.org/depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/unclos_e.pdf.

89 See UNESCO Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (WHC), Paris (France), 16 Nov. 1972, in force 17 Dec. 1975, Art. 4, available at: http://whc.unesco.org/en/conventiontext.

90 See, in particular, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), New York, NY (US), 16 Dec. 1966, in force 3 Jan. 1976, Art. 2, available at: https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/cescr.aspx; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), New York, NY (US), 16 Dec. 1966, in force 23 Mar. 1976, Art. 2, available at: https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx.

91 See Peel, J. & Osofsky, H.M., ‘A Rights Turn in Climate Change Litigation?’ (2018) 7(1) Transnational Environmental Law, pp. 3767 .

92 Urgenda 1, para. 4.80; Urgenda 2, para. 54.

93 Lisbon (Portugal), 13 Dec. 2007, in force 1 Dec. 2009, consolidated version [2012] OJ C 326/47, Art. 192, available at: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=OJ%3AC%3A2012%3A326%3ATOC.

94 Ibid., Art. 193.

95 Urgenda 2, para. 54; see also Urgenda 1, para. 4.80.

96 Urgenda 1, para. 4.81; Urgenda 2, para. 55.

97 See, e.g., Regulation (EU) No. 1210/2011 amending Regulation (EU) No. 1031/2010 in particular to Determine the Volume of Greenhouse Gas Emission Allowances to be Auctioned Prior to 2013 [2011] OJ L 56/11.

98 Decision (EU) 2015/1814 concerning the Establishment and Operation of a Market Stability Reserve for the Union Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Scheme and amending Directive 2003/87/EC [2015] OJ L 264/1. See Urgenda 2, para. 56.

99 UNFCCC Secretariat, n. 68 above, para. 38.

100 Urgenda 1, para. 4.81; Urgenda 2, para. 56. On the DC’s confusion between the waterbed effect and the question of carbon leakage in its judgment, see Peeters, M., ‘Urgenda Foundation and 886 Individuals v. The State of the Netherlands: The Dilemma of More Ambitious Greenhouse Gas Reduction Action by EU Member States’ (2016) 25(1) Review of European, Comparative and International Environmental Law, pp. 123129 , at 126.

101 Urgenda 2, para. 61.

102 See n. 106 below.

103 Urgenda 1, paras 4.78 and 4.90.

104 Urgenda 2, para. 61.

105 See Zahar, A., ‘The Contested Core of Climate Law’ (2018) 8(3–4) Climate Law, pp. 244260 .

106 In 2010, about 0.42% of global GHG emissions occurred in the Netherlands, according to the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR), cited in Urgenda 1, para. 2.27.

107 Urgenda 2, para. 62; see also Urgenda 1, para. 4.79.

108 Urgenda 1, para. 4.89.

109 Supreme Court of the Netherlands, HR 23 Sept. 1968, NJ 1989, 743; Urgenda 1, para. 4.79.

110 Ibid., para. 64.

111 Ibid.

112 Ibid.

113 I. Kant, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals (Thomas Kingsmill Abbott transl., 1785), Section 2, available at: http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/5682/pg5682-images.html.

114 See Urgenda 2, para. 62 (noting the responsibility of the State, ‘in its territory, within its capabilities … in concert with the efforts of other states’).

115 See, e.g., van Zeben, J., ‘Establishing a Governmental Duty of Care for Climate Change Mitigation: Will Urgenda Turn the Tide?’ (2015) 4(2) Transnational Environmental Law, pp. 339357 , at 344.

116 See Arts 2.1 and 3 Paris Agreement. See generally Mayer, B., ‘Construing International Climate Change Law as a Compliance Regime’ (2018) 7(1) Transnational Environmental Law, pp. 115137 ; and Mayer, n. 86 above, pp. 218–37.

117 See Urgenda 1, para. 102; Urgenda 2, para. 69.

118 IPCC, n. 42 above.

119 Urgenda 1, para. 4.14; Urgenda 2, para. 12.

120 See Urgenda 2, para. 44.

121 See Urgenda 1, para. 4.20; Urgenda 2, para. 12.

122 See Urgenda 1, para. 4.23 (with a mistake in the translation: the original version of the judgment mentions a rate of 25%–40%, not 20%–40%); Urgenda 2, para. 12.

123 See generally Hulme, M., Why We Disagree about Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity (Cambridge University Press, 2009) .

124 Urgenda 1, para. 4.11; see also Urgenda 2, para. 12.

125 See S. Gupta et al., ‘Policies, Instruments and Co-operative Arrangements’, in IPCC, n. 42 above, pp. 746–807, at 769 (refraining from taking a position when noting the ‘option … to set a goal for long-term GHG concentrations or maximal temperature rise (such as the 2°C goal proposed by the EU)’). See also Randalls, S., ‘History of the 2°C Climate Target’ (2010) 1(4) WIREs Climate Change, pp. 598605 ; Knutti, R. et al., ‘A Scientific Critique of the Two-Degree Climate Change Target’ (2016) 9(1) Nature Geoscience, pp. 1318 .

126 B. Fisher et al., ‘Issues related to Mitigation in the Long-Term Context’ in IPCC, n. 42 above, pp. 169–250, at 227.

127 Gupta et al., n. 125 above, p. 776.

128 Ibid., p. 748.

129 Urgenda 1, para. 2.16.

130 See also L. Clarke et al., ‘Assessing Transformation Pathways’, in IPCC (O. Edenhofer et al., eds), Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Cambridge University Press, 2014), pp. 413–510, at 433.

131 Urgenda 1, para. 4.85.

132 IPCC, Global Warming of 1.5°C (2018), available at: http://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15.

133 IPCC, n. 130 above.

134 O. Edenhofer et al., ‘Summary for Policymakers’, in IPCC, n. 130 above, pp. 1–30, at 10 (emphasis added), cited in Urgenda 1, para. 2.19.

135 Urgenda 2, para. 12.

136 See Urgenda 1, para. 4.21; Urgenda 2, para. 49.

137 See, in particular, Urgenda 1, para. 4.22.

138 See IPCC, Principles Governing IPCC Work (approved 1–3 Oct. 1998, last updated 14–18 Oct. 2013), para. 2, available at: http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/ipcc–principles/ipcc–principles.pdf.

139 The pre-industrial atmospheric concentration in GHGs is estimated at around 280 ppm CO2-eq: IPCC, n. 82 above, p. 3.

140 Urgenda 2, paras 12 and 49.

141 Clarke et al., n. 130 above, pp. 485–6.

142 European Academies Science Advisory Council, Negative Emission Technologies: What Role in Meeting Paris Agreement Targets? (EASAC Policy Report 35, Feb. 2018), p. 1, available at: https://easac.eu/fileadmin/PDF_s/reports_statements/Negative_Carbon/EASAC_Report_on_Negative_Emission_Technologies.pdf (emphasis added), cited in Urgenda 2, para. 49.

143 Urgenda 2, para. 49 (emphasis added).

144 Fisher et al., n. 126 above, p. 198.

145 Ibid., p. 172.

146 See Lambrecht, J. & Ituarte-Lima, C., ‘Legal Innovation in National Courts for Planetary Challenges: Urgenda v. State of the Netherlands’ (2016) 18(1) Environmental Law Review, pp. 5764 , at 62 (suggesting that even a 66% chance of achieving the 2°C target may not be sufficient).

147 See, e.g., UNFCCC Secretariat, Decision 1/CP.16, ‘The Cancún Agreements: Outcome of the Work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action under the Convention’ (10–11 Dec. 2010), UN Doc. FCCC/CP/2010/7/Add.1, para. 4; UNFCCC Secretariat, Decision 1/CP.20, ‘Lima Call for Climate Action’ (14 Dec. 2014), UN Doc. FCCC/CP/2014/10/Add.1, Rec. 7. See also Art. 2.1(a) Paris Agreement, which adds ‘well below 2°C’ (emphasis added).

148 See European Environment Agency, ‘Atmospheric Greenhouse Gas Concentrations’, 31 Jan. 2018, available at: https://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/indicators/atmospheric-greenhouse-gas-concentrations-10/assessment (indicating 444 ppm CO2-eq in 2015 with an increase of around 4 ppm CO2-eq per year, thus suggesting that the threshold of 450 ppm CO2-eq was passed around 2017).

149 See O. Edenhofer et al., ‘Technical Summary’ in IPCC, n. 130 above, pp. 31–108, at 52; Gupta et al., n. 125 above, p. 776. Temporary overshoots may be caused by short-lived non-CO2 GHGs.

150 Urgenda 1, para. 3.2.

151 See A. Zahar, ‘The Urgenda Appeal Decision and the Argument from Physical Necessity’, 3 Dec. 2018, available at: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3285076.

152 Gupta et al., n. 125 above, p. 776.

153 See, e.g., Fisher et al., n. 126 above, pp. 197–200 and 203–6; Clarke et al., n. 130 above, pp. 433–4 (on timing) and 448–62 (on costs).

154 Art. 3(1) UNFCCC; Art. 2(2) Paris Agreement.

155 See, e.g., Rajamani, L., ‘Common But Differentiated Responsibilities’, in M. Faure (ed.), Elgar Encyclopedia of Environmental Law (Edward Elgar, 2018), pp. 291302 ; Cullet, P., ‘Common But Differentiated Responsibilities’, in M. Fitzmaurice, D.M. Ong & P. Merkouris (eds), Research Handbook on International Environmental Law (Edward Elgar, 2010), pp. 161181 .

156 Cf. Galvão Ferreira, P., ‘“Common But Differentiated Responsibilities” in the National Courts: Lessons from Urgenda v. The Netherlands ’ (2016) 5(2) Transnational Environmental Law, pp. 329351 (which emphasizes the consensus more than its limitations).

157 The principle is not even formally cited by the CA: see Urgenda 2, para. 8, for the closest allusion to equity, responsibilities and capacities. In the judgment of the DC, the principle is mentioned only in the section on ‘facts’, not in the section on their ‘assessment’, although, arguably, its ‘spirit’ is present: see Lambrecht & Ituarte-Lima, n. 146 above, p. 63.

158 T. Barker et al., ‘Technical Summary’ in IPCC, n. 42 above, pp. 25–94, at 90.

159 Urgenda 1, para. 4.23.

160 See Urgenda 1, paras 4.31, 4.84 and passim.

161 Urgenda 2, para. 11.

162 Ibid., para. 51.

163 UNFCCC Secretariat, Decision 1/CMP.6, ‘The Cancún Agreements: Outcome of the Work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol at its Fifteenth Session’ (10–11 Dec. 2010), UN Doc. FCCC/KP/CMP/2010/12/Add.1, Rec. 6. See also UNFCCC Secretariat, Decision 1/CP.13, ‘Bali Action Plan’ (14–15 Dec. 2007), UN Doc. FCCC/CP/2007/6/Add.1, Rec. 5 (which emphasizes the urgency to address climate change and is accompanied by a footnote containing a reference to the WG3 contribution to AR4. Far from endorsing any particular target, the decision did not even formally ‘take note’ or ‘acknowledge’ the findings of the report).

164 Decisions 1/CP.16, n. 147 above, para. 37; UNFCCC Secretariat Decision 1/CP.18, ‘Agreed Outcome pursuant to the Bali Action Plan’ (8 Dec. 2012), UN Doc. FCCC/CP/2012/8/Add.1, para. 7.

165 Urgenda 2, para. 66.

166 Ibid., paras 26, 44, 60 and 66. See also Urgenda 1, para. 4.57.

167 Urgenda 1, para. 4.63; see also ibid., paras 4.67 et seq. The DC thus alluded to a range of geographical and economic circumstances which may hinder or facilitate climate change mitigation in the country, such as the potential for producing renewable energy.

168 Urgenda 2, para. 4.77.

169 Urgenda 1, para. 4.86.

170 Ibid.

171 Robiou du Pont, Y. & Meinshausen, M., ‘Warming Assessment of the Bottom-up Paris Agreement Emissions Pledges’ (2018) 9(4810) Climate Change Nature, pp. 110 , at 2.

172 Government of the Netherlands, ‘Nieuwe Energie voor het Klimaat’ [New Energy for the Climate], 3 Sept. 2007, available at: https://europadecentraal.nl/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Werkprogramma-Schoon-en-Zuinig.pdf (cited in Urgenda 1, para. 2.71). See also Urgenda 1, para. 4.26; Urgenda 2, para. 28.

173 See letter of the Minister of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment to the House of Representatives, 12 Oct. 2009 (cited in Urgenda 2, para. 19).

174 Urgenda 2, para. 52; see also Urgenda 1, para. 4.29.

175 See, e.g., Urgenda 1, paras 4.29 and 4.70; Urgenda 2, para. 52.

176 See Urgenda 2, para. 52. See generally, e.g., Directive 2009/29/EC, n. 27 above, recital 6 (stating that the European Council’s objective of a 30% emissions reduction by 2020 was ‘scientifically necessary to avoid dangerous climate change’).

177 See International Law Commission, ‘Guiding Principles Applicable to Unilateral Declarations of States Capable of Creating Legal Obligations’ (2006) Yearbook of the International Law Commission, Vol. II, Pt Two, Principle 1. See also ICJ, Nuclear Tests (Australia v. France), Judgment of 20 Dec. 1974, ICJ Reports 1974, pp. 267–8, paras 43 and 46.

178 See Mayer, B., ‘International Law Obligations Arising in Relation to Nationally Determined Contributions’ (2018) 7(2) Transnational Environmental Law, pp. 251275 , at 262–70.

179 Such a turnabout might be viewed as an estoppel in common law countries and even under international law: see, e.g., T. Cottier & J.P. Müller, ‘Estoppel’, in Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law (Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 671–7.

180 See Arts 3 and 4.3 Paris Agreement. See generally Club des Jurists, ‘Preliminary Draft of a Global Pact for the Environment’, 24 June 2017, Art. 17, available at: http://pactenvironment.org; Prieur, M., ‘Non-Regression in Environmental Law’ (2012) 5(2) Surveys and Perspectives Integrating Environment & Society, pp. 5356 .

181 See Urgenda 1, para. 4.86 (alluding only to ‘insufficient grounds to compel the State to adopt a higher level than the minimum level of 25%’).

182 See Urgenda 2, paras 3 and 75.

183 The case was still ongoing as of Oct. 2018: Climate Case Chart, Juliana v. United States, available at: http://climatecasechart.com/case/juliana-v-united-states.

184 Climate Case Chart, Sinnok v. Alaska, available at: http://climatecasechart.com/case/sinnok-v-alaska.

185 Climate Case Chart, Reynolds v. Florida, available at: http://climatecasechart.com/case/reynolds-v-florida.

186 Chernaik v. Brown, Or. Cir. Ct, 16-11-09273 (11 May 2015), currently on appeal.

187 See, e.g., AJI P. v. State, 2018 WL 3978310 (Superior Court of Washington, 14 Aug. 2018); Funk v. Wolf, 638 Pa. 726 (Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, 28 Mar. 2017); Sanders-Reed v. Martinez, 350 P.3d 1221 (Court of Appeal of New Mexico, 12 Mar. 2015); Kanuk v. State of Alaska, 335 P.3d 1088 (Supreme Court of Alaska, 12 Sept. 2014). A notable success for climate plaintiffs was reached in Kain v. Department of Environmental Protection, 474 Mass. 27849 N.E.3d 1124 (17 May 2016), but on the basis of a clear statutory requirement that the Department of Environmental Protection promulgate regulations on the reduction of GHG emissions.

188 See generally the website of Klimaatzaak, available at: https://www.klimaatzaak.eu/nl.

189 Climate Case Chart, Pandey v. India, available at: http://climatecasechart.com/non-us-case/pandey-v-india. The case is pending before the National Green Tribunal of India.

190 Climate Case Chart, Greenpeace Canada v. Minister of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks; Lieutenant Governor in Council, available at: http://climatecasechart.com/non-us-case/greenpeace-canada-v-minister-of-the-environment-conservation-and-parks-lieutenant-governor-in-council.

191 Climate Change Laws of the World, Ali v. Federation of Pakistan (Supreme Court of Pakistan), available at: http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/litigation/ali-v-federation-of-pakistan-supreme-court-of-pakistan-2016.

192 Climate Case Chart, Plan B Earth and Others v. Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy’, available at: http://climatecasechart.com/non-us-case/plan-b-earth-others-v-secretary-state-business-energy-industrial-strategy (pending, on appeal).

193 Case T-330/18, Carvalho and Others v. Parliament and Council [2018] OJ C 285/34.

194 Roy, S. & Woerdman, E., ‘Situating Urgenda v The Netherlands within Comparative Climate Change Litigation’ (2016) 34(2) Journal of Energy & Natural Resources Law, pp. 165189 , at 165.

195 See Peeters, n. 100 above, p. 128.

196 See, e.g., US, ‘Nationally Determined Communication’, 3 Sept. 2016, available at: http://www4.unfccc.int/ndcregistry/PublishedDocuments/United%20States%20of%20America%20First/U.S.A.%20First%20NDC%20Submission.pdf; US–China Joint Announcement on Climate Change, Beijing (China), 12 Nov. 2014, available at: https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2014/11/11/us-china-joint-announcement-climate-change. See generally Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, ‘Climate Deregulation Tracker’, available at: http://columbiaclimatelaw.com/resources/climate-deregulation-tracker.

197 Indigenous Environmental Network v. US Department of State (2018) —F.Supp.3d —, 2018 WL 5840768 (DC Mont.).

198 See n. 128 above and accompanying text. For an entirely different methodology suggesting a very different interpretation of the EU’s general mitigation obligation, see also Memorandum for the Applicants in Carvalho v. European Parliament and Council (23 May 2018), available at: http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/20180524_Case-no.-T-18_application-1.pdf.

199 Art. 2.1(a) Paris Agreement.

200 See Zahar, n. 151 above.

201 See by analogy Plan B Earth and Others, ‘Statement of Facts and Grounds’, 8 Dec. 2017, available at: http://blogs2.law.columbia.edu/climate-change-litigation/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/non-us-case-documents/2017/20171207_Claim-No.-CO162018_points-of-claim-1.pdf. See also Memorandum for the Applicants in ENvironnement JEUnesse v. Canada, 26 Nov. 2018, available at: http://blogs2.law.columbia.edu/climate-change-litigation/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/non-us-case-documents/2018/20181126_500-06_application-2.pdf (unofficial English translation).

* The Chinese University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law (Hong Kong).

Email: .

The author is thankful to three anonymous TEL reviewers for insightful comments and advice.

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