Greenpeace Netherlands v. State of the Netherlands
Jurisdiction: District Court (The Hague)
Side A: Greenpeace Netherlands (Ngo)
Side B: Netherlands (Government)
Whether the Dutch government violated its duty of care to prevent dangerous climate change by failing to attach stringent climate conditions to its coronavirus bailout package of the airline KLM.
On October 7, 2020, Greenpeace Netherlands filed suit alleging that the Dutch government's bailout package for airline KLM violated the State's duty of care to prevent the high risk of dangerous climate change. In a notice of possible legal procedure sent to the Dutch government in advance of the suit, plaintiffs cited the European Convention on Human Rights and the Paris Agreement as establishing that duty of care, and the Dutch Supreme Court's Urgenda decision as affirming the duty of care. Plaintiffs alleged that by failing to attach binding climate conditions to the 3.4 billion euro bailout package, the government violated human rights. Greenpeace sought a court order either prohibiting the State from providing financial support or conditioning such support on KLM setting a cap on CO2 emissions by the airline.
On December 9, 2020, the Hague District Court judge rejected Greenpeace's claim on the grounds that the State does not have a legally enforceable obligation to attach climate conditions to the bailout package. The judge reasoned that the executive has a high level of discretion in acting to respond to the coronavirus crisis, and that a judge is limited in such situations to intervening only where a positive legal right has been violated. The judge found no such right here because the Paris Agreement and other international climate treaties do not commit parties to reducing emissions from cross-border aviation. Further, the judge noted that the sustainability conditions that were included in the bailout package were fully in line with the Netherlands' international climate obligations.