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Marjan Minnesma

The Dutch Climate Case: Inspiring the World

Date:November 2015
Location:Netherlands

Marjan Minnesma, the founder and director of the Urgenda Foundation, which sued the Dutch state for its tepid record on greenhouse-gas emissions and won an electrifying court order directing the government to reduce the country’s emissions by 25% by the year 2020.

Marjan Minnesma, the co-founder and director of the Urgenda Foundation, speaks with Silver Donald Cameron in this exclusive Green Interview about the ground-breaking Dutch Climate Case, a suit her foundation, along with 900 Dutch citizens brought against the Netherlands to a successful conclusion in 2015. In an unprecedented verdict the District court in The Hague ordered the Dutch government to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions more dramatically than it had intended, arguing it had a duty of care to its citizens.

Urgenda Foundation

Co-founded in 2007 by Minnesma, the Urgenda Foundation aims to promote sustainable initiatives in the Netherlands, particularly in the areas of energy, transportation, food production, industry, and construction. Unlike most NGOs, Urgenda doesn’t rely on endowments or contributions but on the profits it makes from its activities. It then takes this money and reinvests it in other sustainability-driven projects. One of Minnesma’s highly ambitious and visionary projects is her recent brainchild to convince Dutch citizens to remodel their homes, schools, and churches to make them energy neutral. As part of this plan she imported 50,000 solar panels from China and when the banks refused to give her a loan she got the buyers to advance a portion of the payment and went to China herself to secure an extended payment deadline. Urgenda also advocates a circular economy, using only renewable energies to get there and believes that The Netherlands can be fossil fuel free by 2030.

Dutch Climate Case

The Dutch Climate Case was a class action lawsuit initiated by the Urgenda Foundation and 900 Dutch citizens. Using data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) it’s lawyers argued the urgency of climate change and that the Dutch government should ramp up its climate action. In 2015, after two and half years of litigation, they won a landmark ruling requiring the government to cut GHG emissions more dramatically than it had intended. The court ruled that the Dutch government had a duty of care to its citizens and must cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25 per cent (up from 20 per cent) of that country’s 1990 emissions levels by 2020. It’s the first time a judge has legally required a state to take precautions against climate change and it could be used to support other climate cases around the world. The Dutch government is appealing the case.

Circular Economy

Minnesma is a strong advocate of a “circular economy,” which is the term for an industrial economy that by design produces no waste or pollution. In a way that mimics the natural world, circular economies waste nothing and when products, components or materials are no longer wanted or needed they can be reused or recycled into other useful products. A circular economy is also one where certain products are not owned but instead are used and then returned after a certain point for reuse. It also includes a shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy.