Dutch government to appeal against emissions ruling

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch government will appeal against a district court ruling ordering it to cut emissions of greenhouse gases faster than currently planned, in a politically sensitive case that is being closely watched by policy-makers abroad.

Deputy Minister for the Environment Wilma Mansveld wrote in a letter to parliament on Tuesday that the government would contest the June 24 ruling which ordered it to slash emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

But the government said it will also begin implementing the lower court’s ruling because the filing of an appeal does not undo its obligation to comply.

Urgenda, an environmental group that filed the lawsuit on behalf of 900 Dutch co-plaintiffs, said it looked forward to the appeal process and urged the government to do more to slow climate change.

The ruling, a rare intervention by the judiciary in the global warming debate, is being closely watched by policy makers and environmentalists as a legal precedent.

Mansveld’s letter said it was the first time that a judge found that the government should achieve a minimum emissions reduction.

The government of conservative Prime Minister Mark Rutte “questions the application of international law,” and agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, it said.

“Due to the consequences for climate is desirable for the ruling to be considered by a higher court,” it said.

The Netherlands, a laggard among developed countries in cutting emissions after reducing spending on alternative energy during the financial crisis, used record amounts of coal in the first five months of this year.

Dutch greenhouse gas emissions fell 5 percent in 2014 from a year earlier, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) said on Tuesday, citing the mild winter and lower fossil fuel use.

“These lower emissions were dampened by higher use of coal and less gas by electricity producers,” it said. “Emissions were 15 percent than 1990 levels.”

Based on current government policy, the Netherlands will achieve a reduction of 17 percent at most in 2020, which is below a norm of 25-40 percent for developed countries, a summary of the ruling said.

Not many developed countries are on track in making deep cuts such as those as demanded by the court, which were based on scenarios by the U.N. panel of climate scientists in 2007 for limiting rising temperatures.

The European Union is targeting reductions of at least 20 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels, while the United States is aiming for about a 4 percent cut.

Reporting by Anthony Deutsch, Editing by Angus MacSwan