New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Edited by Michael Faure and Marjan Peeters
Chapter 10: Will Civil Society Take Climate Changers to Court? A Perspective from Dutch Law
Phon van den Biesen The last twenty-five years of civil society’s bringing environmental issues to the Dutch Courts is marked by a respectable amount of cases in which the limits of litigation were explored by adventurous environmentalists. The experience thus developed may be useful for the topics discussed in this book. Climate change is expected to cause the flooding of over half the Dutch territory sometime towards the end of the current century if no defence measures are taken. Now that our leaders have failed to accomplish much in Copenhagen, it may be high time to not wait for that flooding to happen and, instead, to start flooding our Courts with litigation right now. In this Chapter I will try and look into the prospects of climate change litigation possibly undertaken by environmental civil society organizations. First I will discuss issues related to access to the Courts, then I will have a look at some of the obstacles that most certainly will appear during the substantive stages of such litigation. 1. ACCESS TO CIVIL AND ADMINISTRATIVE COURTS IN THE NETHERLANDS For environmental civil society organizations it took quite a bit of banging on the doors of lower courts in order to get access to justice. Today this access is widely available and seems to be a given, but it was not too long ago that the general sense among judges, among lawyers for that matter, was that civil society organizations shouldn’t be allowed to use the judicial system in support...