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Dutch Court’s take on Climate Change and Human Rights: A new direction for Canada

By Astha Joshi-

Despite years of scientists’ warning against the impact of climate change, government policies around the globe have not yet distinguished it as a serious threat. However, the Dutch Supreme Court’s decision can change compel the authorities to take charge against climate change. Climate change activists have been stressing on the deterioration of health due to climate change, resulting in seizing an individual’s right to live.

The Netherlands vs. The Urgenda

In the Netherlands vs. the Urgenda, the Dutch Supreme Court concluded that a country’s incompetent decisions on climate change could infringe human rights. It could supposedly pave a new way to take climate change seriously in other countries.

It was the first instance that a court had ordered a government to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by a minimum of 25% by the end of 2020.

Urgenda was a colossal victory for all the climate activists who’d, for years, attempted to invoke their government to act against climate change and consider it on a serious note.

There are several pending cases related to climate change that have violated the fundamental right to life of Canadians (La Rose vs. Her Majesty the Queen is one of them). Such cases related to climate change have not brought effective outcomes in Canada in the past. The landmark case could open ways for a similar kind of matters that will be taken up in Canada.

With the court concluding climate change as a “real and immediate” threat to the right to live in the Urgenda case, the Netherlands is obliged to consider under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Similarly, Canada is bound by international treaties too.

What is La Rose vs. Canada?

Around 15 youths in Canada sought claims that the country had to implement climate change policies, which resulted in the excess GHG emissions, and has meddled with their right to life.

The youths alleged the federal government of violating Section 7 of the Charter, which talks about the protection of the rights to life, liberty, and security, and Section 15 of the Charter, which presents equality before the law.

Furthermore, they demanded the Climate Recovery Plan, which is compatible with Canada’s fair share of the global carbon budget necessary to tackle greenhouse gas emissions. The youths asked the Court to take over the jurisdiction to ensure the completion of the plan.

Later, the government filed a statement conceding that climate change has severely impacted Canada in real. But it had argued that the claims of the plaintiffs lacked public interest standing.